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THE 



PLAIN SPEAKER 



OPINIONS 



ON 



BOOKS, MEN, AND THINGS. 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 

VOL. II. 




LONDON: 

HENRY COLBURN, NEW BURLINGTON-STREET. 

182G. 






LONDON : 

PRINTED BV THOMAS RAVIS^ON, WIUTEF III ARS. 



CONTENTS 



THE SECOND VOLUME. 



P 



Essay I. — On the Qiuiliriciitions necessary to .Success in 

Life 

Essay II. — On the Look of a Gentleman . 

Essay III. — On Reading Old Books 

Essay IV. — On Personal Character 

Essay V. — On People of Sense 

Essay VI. — On Antiquity .... 

Essay VII. — On the Difference between Vv'riting and 
Speaking ...... 

Essay VIII. — On a Portrait of an English Lady, 
Vandyke ...... 

Essay IX. — On Nov.elty and Familiarity 

Essay X. — On Old English Writers and Speakers 

Essay XL — Madame Pasta and Blademoiselle Mars 

Essay XII. — Sir Walter Scott, Racine, and Shakesp 

Essay XIII. — On Depth and Superficiality 

Essay XIV. — On Respectable People 

Essay XV. — On Jealousy and Spleen of Party 



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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

University of Toronto 



http://www.archive.org/details/plainspeakerop02hazl 



ESSAY I. 

ON THE QUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY 
TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 



Second Series, vol. ii. 



ESSAY I. 

ON THE QUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY TO 
SUCCESS IN LIFE. 



It is curious to consider the diversity of 
men's talents, and the causes of their failure or 
success, which are not less numerous and con- 
tradictory than their pursuits in life. Fortune 
does not always smile on merit : — " the race is 
not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong :" 
and even where the candidate for wealth or 
honours succeeds, it is as often, perhaps, from 
the qualifications which he wants as from those 
which he possesses j or the eminence which he is 
lucky enough to attain, is owing to some faculty 
or acquirement, which neither he nor any body 
else suspected. There is a balance of power in 
the human mind, by which defects frequently 
assist in furthering our views, as superfluous ex- 
cellences are converted into the nature of impe- 
diments ; and again, there is a continual substi- 
tution of one talent for another, through which 
we mistake the appearance for the reality, and 
judge (by implication) of the means from the 

B 2 



4f ON THE aUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY 

end. So a Minister of State wields the House 
of Commons by his manner alone j while his 
friends and his foes are equally at a loss to 
account for his influence, looking for it in vain 
in the matter or style of his speeches. So the 
air with which a celebrated barrister waved a 
white cambrick handkerchief passed for elo- 
quence. So the buffoon is taken for a wit. To 
be thought wise, it is for the most part only 
necessary to seem so ; and the noisy demagogue 
is easily translated, by the popular voice, into 
the orator and patriot. Qualities take their 
colour from those that are next them, as the 
cameleon borrows its hue from the nearest ob- 
ject ; and unable otherwise to grasp the phan- 
tom of our choice or our ambition, we do well 
to lay violent hands on something else within 
our reach, which bears a general resemblance to 
it; and the impression of which, in proportion 
as the thing itself is cheap and worthless, is 
likely to be gross, obvious, striking, and effec- 
tual. The way to secure success, is to be more 
anxious about obtaining than about deserving 
it ; the surest hindrance to it is to have too high 
a standard of refinement in our own minds, or 
too high an opinion of the discernment of the 
public. He who is determined not to be satis- 
fied with any thing short of perfection, will 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 5 

never do any thing at all, either to please him- 
self or others. The question is not what we 
ought to do, but what we can do for the best. 
An excess of modesty is in fact an excess of 
pride, and more hurtful to the individual, and 
less advantageous to society, than the grossest 
and most unblushing vanity — 

Aspiring to be Gods, if angels fell, 
Aspiring to be angels, men rebel. 

If a celebrated artist in our own day had staid 
to do justice to his principal figure in a gene- 
rally admired painting, before he had exhibited 
it, it would never have seen the light. He has 
passed on to other things more within his power 
to accomplish, and more within the competence 
of the spectators to understand. They see what 
he has done, which is a great deal — ^they could 
not have judged of, or given him credit for the 
ineffable idea in his own mind, which he might 
vainly have devoted his whole life in endeavour- 
ing to embody. The picture, as it is, is good 
enough for the age and for the public. If it had 
been ten times better, its merits would have 
been thrown away : if it had been ten times 
better in the more refined and lofty conception 
of character and sentiment, and had failed in 
the more palpable appeal to the senses and pre- 



6 ON THE aUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY 

judices of the vulgar, in the usual " appli- 
ances and means to boot," it would never have 
done. The work might have been praised by a 
few, a very few, and the artist himself have pined 
in penury and neglect. — Mr. Wordsworth has 
given us the essence of poetry in his works, with- 
out the machinery, the apparatus of poetical 
diction, the theatrical pomp, the conventional 
ornaments ; and we see what he has made of it. 
The way to fame, through merit alone, is the 
narrowest, the steepest, the longest, the hardest 
of all others — (that it is the most certain and 
lasting, is even a doubt) — the most sterling re- 
putation is, after all, but a species of imposture. 
As for ordinary cases of success and failure, they 
depend on the slightest shades of character or 
turn of accident — " some trick not worth an 

per cr" 

There 's but the twinkHng of a star 
Betwixt a man of peace and war; 
A thief and justice, fool and knave, 
A huffing officer and a slave ; 
A crafty lawyer and pick-pocket, 
A great philosopher and a blockhead ; 
A formal preacher and a player, 
A learn'd phj-sician and manslayer. 

Men are in numberless instances qualified for 
certain things, for no other reason than because 
they are qualified for nothing else. Negative 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 7 

merit is the passport to negative success. In 
common life, the narrowness of om' ideas and 
appetites is more favourable to the accomplish- 
ment of our designs, by confining our attention 
and ambition to one single object, than a greater 
enlargement of comprehension or susceptibility 
of taste, which (as far as the trammels of custom 
and routine of business are concerned) only 
operate as diversions to our ensuring the main- 
chance ; and, even in the pursuit of arts and 
science, a dull plodding fellow will often do 
better than one of a more mercurial and fiery 
cast — the mere unconsciousness of his own defi- 
ciencies, or of any thing beyond what he himself 
can do, reconciles him to his mechanical pro- 
gress, and enables him to perform all that lies 
in his power with labour and patience. By be- 
ing content with mediocrity, he advances beyond 
it ; whereas the man of greater taste or genius 
may be supposed to fling down his pen or pen- 
cil in despair, haunted with the idea of unattain- 
able excellence, and ends in being nothing, 
because he cannot be every thing at once. 
Those even who have done the greatest things, 
were not always perhaps the greatest men. To 
do any given work, a man should not be greater 
in himself than the work he has to do ; the 
faculties which he has beyond this, will hej'acul- 



8 ON THE aUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY 

ties to let, either not used, or used idly and un- 
profitably, to hinder, not to help. To do any 
one thing best, there should be an exclusiveness, 
a concentration, a bigotry, a blindness of attach- 
ment to that one object ; so that the widest 
range of knowledge and most diffusive subtlety 
of intellect will not uniformly produce the most 
beneficial results ; — and the performance is very 
frequently in the inverse ratio, not only of the 
pretensions, as we might superficially conclude, 
but of the real capacity. A part is greater than 
the whole : and this old saying seems to hold 
true in moral and intellectual questions also 
— in nearly all that relates to the mind of man, 
which cannot embrace the whole, but only a 
part. 

I do not think (to give an instance or two of 
what I mean) that Milton's mind was (so to 
speak) greater than the Paradise Lost; it 
was just big enough to fill that mighty mould ; 
the shrine contained the Godhead. Shakes- 
pear's genius was, I should say, greater than 
any thing he has done, because it still soared 
free and unconfined beyond whatever he under- 
took — ran over, and could not be " constrained 
by mastery" of his subject. Goldsmith, in his 
Retaliation, celebrates Burke as one who was 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 9 

kept back in his dazzling, wayward career, by 
the supererogation of his talents — 

Though equal to all things, for all things unfit, 
Too nice for a statesman, too proud for a wit. 

Dr. Johnson, in Boswell's Life, tells us that 
the only person whose conversation he ever 
sought for improvement was George Psalmana- 
zar : yet who knows any thing of this extraor- 
dinary man now, but that he wrote about 
twenty volumes of the Universal History — in- 
vented a Formosan alphabet and vocabulary — 
being a really learned man, contrived to pass for 
an impostor, and died no one knows how or 
where! The well known author of the "Enquiry 
concerning Political Justice," in conversation has 
not a word to throw at a dog ; all the stores of 
his understanding or genius he reserves for his 
books, and he has need of them, otherwise 
there would be hiatus in manuscript is. He says 
little, and that little were better left alone, being 
both dull and nonsensical ; his talk is as flat as 
a pancake, there is no leaven in it, he has not 
dough enough to make a loaf and a cake ; he 
has no idea of any thing till he is wound up, 
like a clock, not to speak, but to write, and 
then he seems like a person risen from sleep or 
from the dead. The author of the Diversions 



10 ON THE aUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY 

of Purley^ on the other hand, besides being the 
inventor of the theory of grammar, was a poli- 
tician, a wit, a master of conversation, and over- 
flowing with an interminable babble — that fel- 
low had cut and come again in him, and 

" Tongue with a garnish of brains ;'' 

but it only served as an excuse to cheat poste- 
rity of the definition of a verb, by one of those 
conversational ruses de guerre by which he put 
off his guests at Wimbledon with some teazing 
equivoque which he would explain the next time 
they met — and made him die at last with a nos- 
trum in his mouth! The late Professor Porson was 
said to be a match for the Member forOldSarum 
in argument and raillery : — he was a profound 
scholar, and had wit at will — yet what did it 
come to ? His jests have evaporated with the 
marks of the wine on the tavern table ; the page 
of Thucydides or ^schylus, which was stamped 
on his brain, and which he could read there wuth 
equal facility backwards or forwards, is con- 
tained, after his death, as it was while he lived, 
just as well in the volume on the library shelf. 
The man of perhaps the greatest ability now 
I living is the one who has not only done the least, 
but who is actually incapable of ever doing any 
thing worthy of him — unless he had a hundred 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 11 

hands to write with, and a hundred mouths to 
utter all that it hath entered into his heart to 
conceive, and centuries before him to embody 
the endless volume of his waking dreams. 
Cloud rolls over cloud ; one train of thought 
suggests and is driven away by another ; theory 
after theory is spun out of the bowels of his 
brain, not like the spider's web, compact and 
round, a citadel and a snare, built for mischief 
and for use ; but, like the gossamer, stretched 
out and entangled without end, clinging to 
every casual object, flitting in the idle air, and 
glittering only in the ray of fancy. No subject 
can come amiss to him, and he is alike attracted 
and alike indifferent to all — he is not tied down 
to any one in particular — but floats from one to 
another, his mind every where finding its level, 
and feeling no limit but that of thought — now 
soaring with its head above the stars, now tread- 
ing with fairy feet among flowers, now winnow- 
ing the air with winged words — passing from 
Duns Scotus to Jacob Behmen, from the Kan- 
tean philosophy to a conundrum, and from the 
Apocalypse to an acrostic — taking in the whole 
range of poetry, painting, wit, history, politics, 
metaphysics, criticism, and private scandal — 
every question giving birth to some new thought, 
and every thought " discoursed in eloquent 



12 ON THE QUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY 

music," that lives only in the ear of fools, or 
in the report of absent friends. Set him to write 
a book, and he belies all that has been ever said 
about him — 

Ten thousand great ideas filled his mind, 

But with the clouds they fled, and left no trace behind. 

Now there is , who never had an idea 

in his life, and who therefore has never been 
prevented by the fastidious refinements of self- 
knowledge, or the dangerous seductions of the 
Muse, from succeeding in a number of things 
which he has attempted, to the utmost extent 
of his dulness, and contrary to the advice and 
opinion of all his friends. He has written a 
book without being able to spell, by dint of ask- 
ing questions — has painted draperies with great 
exactness, which have passed for finished por- 
traits — daubs in an unaccountable figure or two, 
with a back-ground, and on due deliberation 
calls it history — he is dubbed an Associate 
after being twenty times black-balled, wins his 
way to the highest honours of the Academy, 
through all the gradations of discomfiture and 
disgrace, and may end in being made a foreign 
Count ! And yet (such is the principle of distri- 
butive justice in matters of taste) he is just 
wiiere he was. We judge of men not by what 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 13 

they do, but by what they are. Non ex quovis 
ligno fit Mercurius. Having once got an idea 

of- , it is impossible that any thing he can 

do should ever alter it — though he were to paint 
like Raphael and Michael Angelo, no one in 
the secret would give him credit for it, and 
" though he had all knowledge, and could speak 
with the tongues of angels," yet without genius 
he would be nothing. The original sin of being 
what he is, renders his good works and most 
meritorious efforts null and void. " You cannot 
gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles.'* 

Nature still prevails over art. You look at , 

as you do at a curious machine, which performs 
certain puzzling operations, and as your surprise 
ceases, gradually unfolds other powers which 
you would little expect — but do what it will, it 
is but a machine still ; the thing is without a 
soul ! 

Respicejinem, is the great rule in all practical 
pursuits : to attain our journey*s end, we should 
look little to the right or to the left ; the know- 
ledge of excellence as often deters and distracts, 
as it stimulates the mind to exertion ; and 
hence we may see some reason, why the general 
diffusion of taste and liberal arts is not always 
accompanied with an increase of individual 



14 ON THE aUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY 

As there is a degree of dulness and phlegm, 
which, in the long run, sometimes succeeds 
better than the more noble and aspiring im- 
pulses of our nature (as the beagle by its sure 
tracing overtakes the bounding stag), so there 
is a degree of animal spirits and showy accom- 
plishment, which enables its possessors " to get 
the start of the majestic world," and bear the 
palm alone. How often do we see vivacity and 
impertinence mistaken for wit ; fluency for 
argument; sound for sense; a loud or musical 
voice for eloquence ! Impudence again is an 
equivalent for courage ; and the assumption of 
merit and the possession of it are too often con- 
sidered as one and the same thing. On the other 
hand, simplicity of manner reduces the person 
who cannot so far forego his native disposition 
as by any eifort to shake it off, to perfect insig- 
nificance in the eyes of the vulgar, who, if you 
do not seem to doubt your own pretensions, 
will never question them ; and on the same 
principle, if you do not try to palm yourself on 
them for what you are not, will never be per- 
suaded you can be any thing. Admiration, like 
mocking, is catching: and the good opinion 
which gets abroad of us begins at home. If a 
man is not as much astonished at his own 
acquirements — as proud of and as delighted 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 15 

with the bauble, as others woukl be if put into 
sudden possession of it, they hold that true 
desert and he must be strangers to each other : 
if he entertains an idea beyond his own imme- 
diate profession or pursuit, they think very 
wisely he can know nothing at all : if he does 
not play off the quack or the coxcomb upon 
them at every step, they are confident he is a 
dunce and a fellow of no pretensions. It has 
been sometimes made a matter of surprise that 
Mr. Pitt did not talk politics out of the House 5 
or that Mr. Fox conversed like any one else on 
common subjects; or that Walter Scott is 
fonder of an old Scotch ditty or antiquarian 
record, than of listening to the praises of the 
Author of Waverley. On the contrary, I can- 
not conceive how any one who feels conscious 
of certain powers, should always be labouring 
to convince others of the fact ; or how a per- 
son, to whom their exercise is as familiar as the 
breath he draws, should think it worth his while 
to convince them of what to him must seem so 
very simple, and at the same time, so very evi- 
dent. I should not wonder, however, if the 
author of the Scotch Novels laid an undue 
stress on the praises of the Monastery. We 
nurse the ricketty child, and prop up our want 
of self-confidence by the opinion of friends. A 



16 ON THE aUALlFICATIONS NECESSARY 

man (unless he is a fool) is never vain, but 
when he stands in need of the tribute of adula- 
tion to strengthen the hollowness of his preten- 
sions ; nor conceited, but when he can find no 
one to flatter him, and is obhged secretly to 
pamper his good opinion of himself, to make up 
for the want of sympathy in others. A damned 
author has the highest sense of his own merits, 
and an inexpressible contempt for the judg- 
ment of his contemporaries ; in the same man- 
ner that an actor who is hissed or hooted 
from the stage, creeps into exquisite favour 
with himself, in proportion to the blindness and 
injustice of the public. A prose- writer, who 
has been severely handled in the Reviews, will 
try to persuade himself that there is nobody 
else who can write a word of English : and we 
have seen a poet of our time, whose works have 
been much, but not (as he thought) sufficiently 
admired, undertake formally to prove, that no 
poet, who deserved the name of one, was ever 
popular in his life-time, or scarcely after his 
death ! 

There is nothing that floats a man sooner into 
the tide of reputation, or oftencr passes current 
for genius, than what might be called constitu- 
tional talent. A man without this, w^hatever 
may be his worth or real powers, will no more 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 17 

get on in the world than a leaden Mercury will 
fly into the air ; as any pretender with it, and 
with no one quality beside to recommend him, 
will be sure either to blunder upon success, or 
will set failure at defiance. By constitutional 
talent I mean, in general, the warmth and 
vigour given to a man's ideas and pursuits by 
his bodily sfamina, by mere physical organiza- 
tion. A weak mind in a sound body is better, 
or at least more profitable, than a sound mind 
in a weak and crazy conformation. How many 
instances might I quote ! Let a man have a 
quick circulation, a good digestion, the bulk, 
and thews, and sinews of a man, and the alacrity, 
the unthinking confidence inspired by these ; 
and without an atom, a shadow of the mens 
divinior, he shall strut and swagger and vapour 
and jostle his way through life, and have the 
upper-hand of those who are his betters in 
every thing but health and strength. His jests 
shall be echoed with loud laughter, because his 
own lungs begin to crow like chanticleer, before 
he has uttered them; while a little hectic 
nervous humourist shall stammer out an ad- 
mirable conceit that is damned in the doubtful 
delivery — voxfaucihus hoesit. — The first shall 
tell a story as long as his arm, without in- 
terruption, while the latter stops short in his 

Second Series, vol. ii. C 



18 ON THE €IU A LI FI CATIONS NECESSARY 

attempts from mere weakness of chest : the one 
shall be empty and noisy and successful in 
argument, putting forth the most common-place 
things *' with a confident brow and a throng of 
words, that come with more than impudent 
sauciness from him," while the latter shrinks 
from an observation "too deep for his hearers," 
into the delicacy and unnoticed retirement of 
his own mind. The one shall never feel the 
want of intellectual resources, because he can 
hack his opinions with his person ; the other 
shall lose the advantages of mental superiority, 
seek to anticipate contempt by giving oflence, 
court mortification in despair of popularity, and 
even in the midst of public and private admira- 
tion, extorted slowly by incontrovertible proofs 
of genius, shall never get rid of the awkward, 
uneasy sense of personal weakness and insig- 
nificance, contracted by early and long-con- 
tinued habit. What imports the inward to the 
outward man, when it is the last that is the 
general and inevitable butt of ridicule or object 
of admiration .? — It has been said that a good 
face is a letter of recommendation. But the 
finest face will not carry a man far, unless it is 
set upon an active body, and a stout pair of 
shoulders. The countenance is the index of a 
man's talents and attainments : his figure is the 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 19 

criterion of his progress through life. We may 
have seen faces that spoke *'a soul as fair — 

"Bright as the children of yon azure sheen" — 

yet that met with but an indifferent reception 
in the world — and that being supported by a 
couple of spindle-shanks and a weak stomach, 
in fulfilling what was expected of them, 

" Fell flat, and shamed their worshippers." 

Hence the successes of such persons did not 
correspond with their deserts. There was a 
natural contradiction between the physiognomy 
of their minds and bodies! The phrase, **a 
good-looking man," means different things in 
town and country; and artists have a separate 
standard of beauty from other people. A 
country-squire is thought good-looking, who is 
in good condition like his horse : a country-far- 
mer, to take the neighbours' eyes, must seem 
stall-fed, like the prize-ox ; they ask, *' how he 
cuts up in the caul, how he tallows in the kid- 
neys." The letter-of-recommendation face, in 
general, is not one that expresses the finer 
movements of thought or of the soul, but that 
makes part of a vigorous and healthy form. It 
is one in which Cupid and Mars take up their 
quarters, rather than Saturn or Mercury, It 
may be objected here that some of the greatest 
c 2 



20 ON THE aUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY 

favourites of fortune have been little men. "A 
little man, but of high fancy," is Sterne's descrip- 
tion of Mr. Hammond Shandy. But then they 
have been possessed of strong fibres and an iron 
constitution. The late Mr. West said, that 
Buonaparte was the best-made man he ever saw 
in his life. In other cases, the gauntlet of con- 
tempt which a puny body and a fiery spirit are 
forced to run, may determine the possessors to 
aim at great actions ; indignation may make 
men heroes as well as poets, and thus revenge 
them on the niggardliness of nature and the 
prejudices of the world. I remember Mr. 
Wordsworth's saying, that he thought ingenious 
poets had been of small and delicate frames, 
like Pope ; but that the greatest (such as Shake- 
spear and Milton) had been healthy, and cast 
in a larger and handsomer mould. So were 
Titian, Raphael, and Michael Angelo. This is 
one of the few observations of Mr. Words- 
worth's I recollect worth quoting, and I accord- 
ingly set it down as his, because I understand 
he is tenacious on that point. 

In love, in war, in conversation, in business, 
confidence and resolution are the principal 
things. Hence the poet's reasoning : 

" For women, born to be controll'd, 
Affect the loud, the vain, the bold." 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 21 

Nor is this peculiar to them, but runs all 
through life. It is the opinion we appear to 
entertain of ourselves, from which (thinking we 
must be the best judges of our own merits) 
others accept their idea of us on trust. It is 
taken for granted that every one pretends to the 
utmost he can do, and he who pretends to little, 
is supposed capable of nothing. The humility 
of our approaches to power or beauty ensures a 
repulse, and the repulse makes us unwilling to 
renew the application ; for there is pride as well 
as humility in this habitual backwardness and re- 
serve. If you do not bully the world, they will 
be sure to insult over you, because they think 
they can do it with impunity. They insist upon 
the arrogant assumption of superiority some- 
where, and if you do not prevent them, they 
will practise it on you. Some one must top the 
part of Captain in the play. Servility however 
chimes in, and plays Scrub in the farce. Men 
patronise the fawning and obsequious, as they 
submit to the vain and boastful. It is the air of 
modesty and independence, which will neither 
be put upon itself, nor put upon others, that 
they cannot endure — that excites all the indig- 
nation they should feel for pompous affectation, 
and all the contempt they do not show to mean- 
ness and duplicity. Our indolence, and perhaps 



22 ON THE aUALIFICATlONS NECESSARY 

our envy take part with our cowardice and 
vanity in all this. The obtrusive claims of 
empty ostentation, played oft' like the ring on 
the finger, fluttering and sparkling in our sight, 
relieve us from the irksome task of seeking out 
obscure merit : the scroll of virtues written on 
the bold front, or triumphing in the laughing 
eye, save us the trouble of sifting the evidence 
and deciding for ourselves : besides, our self- 
love receives a less sensible shock from encoun- 
tering the mere semblance than the solid sub- 
stance of worth ; folly chuckles to find the 
blockhead put over the wise man's head, and 
cunning winks to see the knave, by his own 
good leave, transformed into a saint. 

" Doubtless, the pleasure is as great 
In being cheated, as to cheat." 

In all cases, there seems a sort of compromise, 
a principle of collusion between imposture and 
credulity. If you ask what sort of adventurers 
have swindled tradesmen of their goods, you 
will find they are all likely men, with plausible 
manners or a handsome equipage, hired on 
purpose: —if you ask what sort of gallants have 
robbed women of their hearts, you will find 
they are those who have jilted hundreds before, 
from which the willing fair conceives the pro- 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 23 

ject of fixing the truant to herself — so the bird 
flutters its idle wings in the jaws of destruction, 
and the foolish moth rushes into the flame that 
consumes it ! There is no trusting to appear- 
ances, we are told ; but this maxim is of no 
avail, for men are the eager dupes of them. Life, 
it has been said, is " the art of being well de- 
ceived ;" and accordingly, hypocrisy seems to be 
the great business of mankind. The game of 
fortune is, for the most part, set up with coun- 
ters ; so that he who will not cut in because he 
has no gold in his pocket, must sit out above 
half his time, and lose his chance of sweeping the 
tables. Delicacy is, in ninety-nine cases out of 
a hundred, considered as rusticity ; and since- 
rity of purpose is the greatest affront that can be 
offered to societ}'. To insist on simple truth, is 
to disqualify yourself for place or patronage — 
the less you deserve, the more merit in their 
encouraging you ; and he who, in the struggle 
for distinction, trusts to realities and not to ap- 
pearances, will in the end find himself the ob- 
ject of universal hatred and scorn. A man who 
thinks to gain and keep the public ear by the 
force of style, will find it very up-hill work ; if 
you wish to pass for a great author, you ought 
not to look as if you were ignorant that you 
had ever written a sentence or discovered a 



24 ON THE QUALIFICATIONS NECESSARV 

single truth. If you keep your own secret, be 
assured the world will keep it for you. A writer, 
whom I know very well, cannot gain an admis- 
sion to Drury-lane Theatre, because he does not 
lounge into the lobbies, or sup at the Shake- 
spear — nay, the same person having WTitten up- 
wards of sixty columns of original matter on po- 
litics, criticism, belles-lettres, and virtu in a re- 
spectable Morning Paper, in a single half-year, 
was, at the end of that period, on applying for a 
renewal of his engagement, told by the Editor 
" he might give in a specimen of what he could 
do !" One would think sixty columns of the 
Morning Chronicle were a sufficient specimen of 
what a man could do. But while this person w^as 
thinking of his next answer to Vetus, or his ac- 
count of Mr. Kean's performance of Hamlet, he 
had neglected " to point the toe," to hold up his 
head higher than usual (having acquired a habit 
of poring over books when young), and to 
get a new velvet collar to an old-fashioned great 
coat. These are ^'- the graceful ornaments to 
the columns of a newspaper — the Corinthian 
capitals of a polished style!" This unprofitable 
servant of the press found no difference in him- 
self before or after he became known to the 
readers of the Morning Chronicle, and it ac- 
cordingly made no difference in his appearance 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. y^ 25 

or pretensions. '•' Don't you remember," says 

Gray, in one of his letters, " Lord C and 

Lord M who are now great statesmen, little 

dirty boys playing at cricket? For ray own 
part, I don't feel myself a bit taller, or older, 
or wiser, than 1 did then." It is no wonder that 
a poet, who thought in this manner of himself, 
was hunted from college to college, — has left us 
so few precious specimens of his fine powers, 
and shrunk from his reputation into a silent 
grave ! 

"I never knew a man of genius a coxcomb in 
dress," said a man of genius and a sloven in 
dress. I do know a man of genius who is a cox- 
comb in his dress, and in every thing else. But 
let that pass. 

<' C'est un mauvais metier que celui de medire." 

I also know an artist who has at least the ambi- 
tion and the boldness of genius, who has been 
reproached with being a coxcomb, and with af- 
fecting singularity in his dress and demeanour. 
If he is a coxcomb that way, he is not so in 
himself, but a rattling hair-brained fellow, with 
a great deal of unconstrained gaiety, and im- 
petuous (not to say turbulent) life of mind ! 
Happy it is when a man's exuberance of self- 
love flies off to the circumference of a broad- 



26 ON THE QUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY 

brimmed hat, descends to the toes of his shoes, 
or carries itself off with the peculiarity of his 
gait, or even vents itself in a little professional 
quackery ; — and when he seems to think some- 
times of you, sometimes of himself, and some- 
times of others, and you do not feel it necessary 
to pay to him all the finical devotion, or to sub- 
mit to be treated with the scornful neglect of a 
proud beauty, or some Prince Prettyman. It is 
well to be something besides the coxcomb, for 
our own sake as well as that of others ; but to 
be born wholly without this faculty or gift of 
Providence, a man had better have had a stone 
tied about his neck, and been cast into the sea. 
In general, the consciousness of internal 
power leads rather to a disregard of, than a stu- 
died attention to external appearance. The 
wear and tear of the mind does not improve the 
sleekness of the skin, or the elasticity of the 
muscles. The burthen of thought weighs down 
the body like a porter's burthen. A man cannot 
stand so upright or move so briskly under it as 
if he had nothing to carry in his head or on his 
shoulders. The rose on the cheek and the 
canker at the heart do not flourish at the same 
time ; and he who has much to think of, must 
take many things to heart; for thought and 
feeling are one. He who can truly say, Nihil 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 27 

hinnani a me aiienum puto, has a world of cares 
on his hands, which nobody knows any thing of 
but himself. This is not one of the least mise- 
ries of a studious life. The common herd do 
not by any means give him full credit for his 
gratuitous sympathy with their concerns ; but 
are struck with his lack-lustre eye and wasted 
appearance. They cannot translate the expres- 
sion of his countenance out of the vulgate ; 
they mistake the knitting of his brows for the 
frown of displeasure, the paleness of study for 
the languor of sickness, the furrows of thought 
for the regular approaches of old age. They 
read his looks, not his books ; have no clue to 
penetrate the last recesses of the mind, and at- 
tribute the height of abstraction to more than an 

ordinary share of stupidity. *' Mr. never 

seems to take the slightest interest in any thing,'' 
is a remark I have often heard made in a whis- 
per. People do not like your philosopher at all, 
for he does not look, say, or think as they do; 
and they respect him still less. The majority 
go by personal appearances, not by proofs of in- 
tellectual power ; and they are quite right in 
this, for they are better judges of the one than 
of the other. There is a large party who un- 
dervalue Mr. Kean's acting, (and very properly, 
as far as they are concerned,) for they can see 



28 ON THE aUALIFICATIONS NFXESSARY 

that he is a little ill-made man, but they are in- 
capable of entering into the depth and height of 
the passion in his Othello. A nobleman of high 
rank, sense, and merit, who had accepted an 
order of knighthood, on being challenged for 
so doing by a friend, as a thing rather degrading 
to him than otherwise, made answer — " What 
you say, may be very true ; but I am a little 
man, and am sometimes jostled, and treated with 
very little ceremony in walking along the 
streets ; now the advantage of this new honour 
will be that when people see the star at my 
breast, they will every one make way for me 
with the greatest respect." Pope bent himself 
double and ruined his constitution by over-study 
when young. He was hardly indemnified by 
all his posthumous fame, " the flattery that 
soothes the dull cold ear of death," nor by the 
admiration of his friends, nor the friendship of 
the great, for the distortion of his person, the 
want of robust health, and the insignificant 
figure he made in the eyes of strangers, and of 
Lady Mary Wortley Montague. Not only was 
his diminutive and mis-shapen form against him 
in such trivial toys, but it was made a set-off 
and a bar to his poetical pretensions by his bro- 
ther-poets, who ingeniously converted the initial 
and final letters of his name into the invidious 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 29 

appellation A. P. E. He probably had the pas- 
sage made under-ground from his garden to his 
grotto, that he might not be rudely gazed at in 
crossing the road by some untutored clown ; and 
perhaps started to see the worm he trod upon 
writhed into his own form, like Elshie the Black 
Dwarf. Let those who think the mind every 
thing and the body nothing, " ere we have 
shuffled off this mortal coil,*' read that fine mo- 
ral fiction, or the real story of David Ritchie — 
believe and tremble * ! 

It may be urged that there is a remedy for 
all this in the appeal from the ignorant many to 
the enlightened few. But the few who are 
judges of what is called real and solid merit, are 

* It is more desirable to be the handsomest than the wisest 
man in his Majesty's dominions, for there are more people 
who have eyes than understandings. Sir John Suckhng tells 
us that 

He prized black eyes and a lucky hit 
At bowls, above all the trophies of wit. 

In like manner, I would be permitted to say, that I am 
somewhat sick of this trade of authorship, where the critics 
look askance at one's best-meant efforts, but am still fond 
of those athletic exercises, where they do not keep two 
scores to mark the game, with Whig and Tory notches. The 
accomplishments of the body are obvious and clear to all : 
Miose of the mind are recondite and doubtful, and therefore 
grudgingly acknowledged, or held up as the sport of preju- 
dice, spite, and folly. 



30 ON THE Q.UALIFICATIONS NECESSARY 

not forward to communicate their occult disco- 
veries to others : they are withheld partly by 
envy, and partly by pusillanimity. The strongest 
minds are by rights the most independent and 
ingenuous : but then they are competitors in 
the lists, and jealous of the prize. The prudent 
(and the wise are prudent!) only add their 
hearty applause to the acclamations of the mul- 
titude, which they can neither silence nor dis- 
pute. So Mr. Gifford dedicated those verses to 
Mr. Hoppner, when securely seated on the 
heights of fame and fortune, which before he 
thought might have savoured too much of flat- 
tery or friendship. Those even who have the 
sagacity to discover it, seldom volunteer to in- 
troduce obscure merit into publicity, so as to 
endanger their own pretensions : they praise the 
world*s idols, and bow down at the altars which 
they cannot overturn by violence or undermine 
by stealth ! Suppose literary men to be the 
judges and vouchers for literary merit : — but it 
may sometimes happen that a literary man 
(however high in genius or in fame) has no pas- 
sion but the love of distinction, and hates every 
person or thing that interferes with his inadmis- 
sible and exorbitant claims. Dead to every 
other interest, he is alive to that, and starts up? 
like a serpent when trod upon, out of the slum- 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 31 

ber of wounded pride. The cold slime of in- 
difference is turned into rank poison at the sight 
of your approach to an equality or competition 
with himself. If he is an old acquaintance, he 
would keep you always where you were, under 
his feet to be trampled on : if a new one, he 
wonders he never heard of you before. As you 
become known, he expresses a greater contempt 
for you, and grows more captious and uneasy. 
The more you strive to merit his good word, 
the farther you are from it. Such characters 
will not only sneer at your well-meant endea- 
vours, and kept silent as to your good qualities, 
but are out of countenance, " quite chop-fallen," 
if they find you have a cup of water, or a crust 
of bread. It is only when you are in a jail, 
starved or dead, that their exclusive pretensions 
are safe, or their Argus-eyed suspicions laid 
asleep. This is a true copy, nor is it taken from 
one sitting, or a single subject. — An author 
now-a-days, to succeed, must be something more 
than an author, — a nobleman, or rich plebeian : 
the simple literary character is not enough. 
" Such a poor forked animal," as a mere poet or 
philosopher turned loose upon public opinion, 
has no chance against the flocks of bats and owls 
that instantly assail him. It is name, it is wealth, 
it is title and influence that mollifies the tender- 



32 ON THE GIUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY 

hearted Cerberus of criticism — first, by placing 
the honorary candidate for fame out of the 
reach of Grub-street mahce ; secondly, by hold- 
ing out the prospect of a dinner or a vacant 
office to successful sycophancy. This is the 
reason why a certain Magazine praises Percy 
Bysshe Shelley, and viUifies " Johnny Keats * :'* 
they know very well that they cannot ruin the 
one in fortune as well as in fame, but they may 
ruin the other in both, deprive him of a liveli- 
hood together with his good name, send him 
to Coventry, and into the Rules of a prison ; 
and this is a double incitement to the exercise 
of their laudable and legitimate vocation. We 
do not hear that they plead the good-natured 
motive of the Editor of the Quarterly Review, 
that " they did it for his good," because some 
one, in consequence of that critic's abuse, had 
sent the author a present of five-and-twenty 
pounds! One of these writers went so far, in a 
sort of general profession of literary servility, as 
to declare broadly that there had been no great 
English poet, and that no one had a right to 
pretend to the character of a man of genius in 
this country, who was not of patrician birth — or 
connections by marriage ! This hook was well 
baited. 

* Written in June 1B20, 



TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. 33 

These are the doctrines that enrich the shops. 
That pass with reputation through the land, 
And bring their authors an immortal name. 

It is the sympathy ofthepubUc with the spite, 
jealousy, and irritable humours of the writers, 
that nourishes this disease in the pubhc mind ; 
this, this " embahiis and spices to the April 
day again," what otherwise "^ the spital and the 
lazar-house would heave the gorge at !" 



Second Series, vol. ii. D 



ESSAY II. 

ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 



d2 



ESSAY II. 

ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 



*■' The nobleman-look ? Yes, I know what you mean very 
well : that look which a nobleman should have, rather than 
what they have generally now. The Duke of Buckingham 
(Sheffield*) was a genteel man, and had a great deal the 
look you speak of. Wycherley was a very genteel man, and 
had the nobleman -look as much as the Duke of Buckingham. 

Pope. 

He instanced it too in Lord Peterborough, Lord Boling- 
broke, Lord Hinchinbroke, the Duke of Bolton, and two or 
three more.'" — Spence's Anecdotes of Pope. 

I HAVE chosen the above motto to a very 
delicate subject, which in prudence I might let 
alone. I, however, like the title ; and will try, 
at least, to make a sketch of it. 

What it is that constitutes the look of a gen- 
tleman is more easily felt than described. We 

* Quere, Villiers, because in another place it is said, that 
<' when the latter entered the presence-chamber, he attracted 
all eyes by the handsomeness of his person, and the graceful- 
ness of his demeanour." 



38 ON THE LOOK OF A GEiNTLEMAN. 

all know it when we see it ; but we do not know 
how to account for it. or to explain in what it 
consists. Causa latet, res ipsa not'issima. Ease, 
grace, dignity have been given as the expo- 
nents and expressive symbols of this look ; but 
I would rather say, that an habitual self-posses- 
sion determines the appearance of a gentleman. 
He should have the complete command, not 
only over his countenance, but over his limbs 
and motions. In other words, he should disco- 
ver in his air and manner a voluntary power 
over his whole body, which with every inflec- 
tion of it, should be under the controtd of his 
will. It must be evident that he looks and does 
as he likes, without any restraint, confusion, or 
awkwardness. He is, in fact, master of his 
person, as tlie professor of any art or science is 
of a particular instrument ; he directs it to what 
use he pleases and intends. Wherever this 
pow^r and facility appear, we recognise the look 
and deportment of the gentleman, — that is, of 
a person who by his habits and situation in life, 
and in his ordinary intercourse with society, has 
had little else to do than to study those move- 
ments, and that carriage of the body, which 
were accompanied with most satisfiction to 
himself, and were calculated to excite the ap- 
probation of the beholder. Ease, it might be 



ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 3[) 

observed, is not enough ; dignity is too much. 
There must be a certain retenu^ a conscious de- 
corum, added to the first, — and a certain " fa- 
miliarity of regard, quenching the austere 
countenance of controul," in the other, to 
answer to our conception of this character. 
Perliaps propriety is as near a word as any to 
denote the manners of the gentleman ; elegance 
is necessary to the fine gentleman ; dignity is 
proper to noblemen ; and majesty to kings ! 

Wherever this constant and decent subjection 
of the body to the mind is visible in the custo- 
mary actions of walking, sitting, riding, stand- 
ing, speaking, &c. we draw the same conclusion 
as to the individual, — whatever maybe the impe- 
diments or unavoidable defects in the machine,, 
of which he has the management. A man ma) 
have a mean or disagreeable exterior, may halt 
in his gait, or have lost the use of half his 
limbs ; and yet he may shew this habitual at- 
tention to what is graceful and becoming in the 
use he makes of all the power he has left, — in 
the " nice conduct " of the most unpromising 
and impracticable figure. A hump-backed or 
deformed man does not necessarily look like a 
clown or a mechanic ; on the contrary, from 
his care in the adjustment of his appearance, 
and his desire to remedy his defects, he for the 



40 ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 

most part acquires something of the look of a 
gentleman. The common nick-name of My 
Lord, applied to such persons, has allusion to 
this — to their circumspect deportment, and tacit 
resistance to vulgar prejudice. Lord Ogleby, 
in the Clandestine Marriage, is as crazy a piece 
of elegance and refinement, even after he is 
*' wound up for the day," as can well be ima- 
gined ; yet in the hands of a genuine actor, his 
tottering step, his twitches of the gout, his un- 
successful attempts at youth and gaiety, take 
nothing from the nobleman. He has the ideal 
model in his mind, resents his deviations from 
it with proper horror, recovers himself from any 
ungraceful action as soon as possible ; does all 
he can with his limited means, and fails in his 
just pretensions, not from inadvertence, but 
necessity. Sir Joseph Banks, who was almost 
bent double, retained to the last the look of 
a privy-counsellor. There was all the firm- 
ness and dignity that could be given by the 
sense of his own importance to so distorted and 
disabled a trunk. Sir Charles B-nb-ry, as he 
saunters down St. James's-street, with a large 
slouched hat, a lack-lustre eye, and aquiline 
nose, an old shabby drab-coloured coat, but- 
toned across his breast without a cape, — with 
old top-boots, and his hands in his waist-coat or 



ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 41 

breeches' pockets, as if he were strolling along 
his own garden-walks, or over the turf at New- 
market, after having made his bets secure, — 
presents nothing very dazzling, or graceful, or 
dignified to the imagination ; though you can 
tell infallibly at the first glance, or even a bow- 
shot off, that he is a gentleman of the first water 
(the same that sixty years ago married the 
beautiful Lady Sarah L-nn-x, with whom the 
king was in love). What is the clue to this 
mystery ? It is evident that his person costs him 
no more trouble than an old glove. His limbs 
are, as it were, left to take care of themselves ; 
they move of their own accord ; he does not 
strut or stand on tip-toe to show 

how tall 

His person is above them all ; 

but he seems to find his own level, and where- 
ever he is, to slide into his place naturally ; 
he is equally at home among lords or gamblers ; 
nothing can discompose his fixed serenity of 
look and purpose ; there is no mark of super- 
ciliousness about him, nor does it appear as if any 
thing could meet his eye to startle or throw him 
ofFhis guard; he neither avoids nor courts notice; 
but the archaism of his dress may be understood 
to denote a lingering partiality for the costume 
of the last age, and something like a prescriptive 



42 ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 

contempt for the finery of this. The old one- 
eyed Duke of Queensbury is another example 
that I might quote. As he sat in his bow-win- 
dow in Piccadilly, erect and emaciated, he seem- 
ed like a nobleman framed and glazed, or a 
well-dressed mummy of the court of George II. 
We have few of these precious specimens of 
the gentleman or nobleman-look now remain- 
ing ; other considerations have set aside the 
exclusive importance of the character, and of 
course, the jealous attention to the outward 
expression of it. Where we oftenest meet with 
it now-a-days, is, perhaps, in the butlers in old 
families, or the valets, and *' gentlemen's gen- 
tlemen" of the younger branches. The sleek 
pursy gravity of the one answers to the stately 
air of some of their quondam masters ; and 
the flippancy and finery of our old-fashioned 
beaux, having been discarded by tlie heirs to 
the title and estate, have been retained by their 
lacqueys. The late Admiral Byron (I have 

heard N7 say) had a butler, or steward, who, 

from constantly observing his master, had so 
learned to mimic him— the look, the manner, 
the voice, the bow were so alike — he was so 
" subdued to the very quality of his lord" — 
that it was difiicult to distinguish them apart. 
Our modern footmen, as we see them fluttering 



ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 43 

and lounging in lobbies, or at the doors of 
ladies' carriages, bedizened in lace and powder, 
with ivory-headed cane and embroidered gloves, 
give one the only idea of the fine gentlemen of 
former periods, as they are still occasionally 
represented on the stage ,- and indeed our the- 
atrical heroes, who top such parts, might be 
supposed to have copied, as a last resource, 
from the heroes of the shoulder-knot. We also 
sometimes meet with a straggling personation 
of this character, got up in common life from 
pure romantic enthusiasm, and on absolutely 
ideal principles. I recollect a well-grown 
comely haberdasher, who made a practice of 
walking every day from Bishop'sgate-street to 
Pall-mall and Bond-street with the undaunted 
air and strut of a general-officer ; and also a 
prim undertaker, who regularly tendered his 
person, whenever the weather would permit, 
from the neighbourhood of Camberwell into the 
favourite promenades of the city, with a minc- 
ing gait that would have become a gentleman- 
usher of the black-rod. What a strange infatu- 
ation to live in a dream of being taken for what 
one is not, — in deceiving others, and at the 
same time ourselves ; for no doubt these per- 
sons believed that they thus appeared to the 
world in their true characters, and that tlieir 



44 ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 

assumed pretensions did no more than justice to 
their real merits. 

Dress makes the man, and want of it the fellow ; 
The rest is all but leather and prunella. 

I confess, however, that I admire this look of 
a gentleman, more when it rises from the level 
of common life, and bears the stamp of intel- 
lect, than when it is formed out of the mould 
of adventitious circumstances. I think more 
highly of Wycherley than I do of LordHinchin- 
broke, for looking like a lord. In the one, it 
was the effect of native genius, grace, and 
spirit ; in the other, comparatively speaking, of 
pride or custom. A visitor complimenting Vol- 
taire on the growth and flourishing condition of 
some trees in his grounds, " Aye," said the 
French wit, " they have nothing else to do!" 
A lord has nothing to do but to look like a 
lord : our comic poet had something else to do, 
and did it*! 

Though the disadvantages of nature or acci- 
dent do not act as obstacles to the look of a 
gentleman, those of education and employment 
do. A shoe-maker, who is bent in two over his 

* Wycherley was a great favourite with the Duchess of 
Cleveland. 



ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 4.5 

daily task ; a taylor who sits cross-legged all 
day ; a ploughman, who wears clog-shoes over 
the furrowed miry soil, and can hardly drag his 
feet after him ; a scholar who has pored all his 
life over books, — are not likely to possess that 
natural freedom and ease, or to pay that strict 
attention to personal appearances, that the look 
of a gentleman implies. I might add, that a 
man-milliner behind a counter, who is com- 
pelled to show every mark of complaisance to 
his customers, but hardly expects common 
civility from them in return ; or a sheriff's 
officer, who has a consciousness of power, but 
none of good-will to or from any body, — are 
equally remote from the heau ideal of this cha- 
racter. A man who is awkward from bashful- 
ness is a clown, — as one who is shewing off a 
number of impertinent airs and graces at every 
turn, is a coxcomb, or an upstart. Mere awk- 
wardness or rusticity of behaviour may arise, 
either from want of presence of mind in the 
company of our betters, (the commonest hind 
goes about his regular business without any of the 
mauvaise honte,) from a deficiency of breeding, 
as it is called, in not having been taught certain 
fashionable accomplishments — or from unremit- 
ting application to certain sorts of mechanical 
labour, unfitting the body for general or indif- 



46 ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 

ferent uses. (That vulgarity wliich proceeds 
from a total disregard of decorum, and want of 
careful controul over the different actions of the 
body — such as loud speaking, boisterous ges- 
ticulations, &c. — is rather rudeness and vio- 
lence, than awkwardness or uneasy restraint.) 
Now the gentleman is free from all these causes 
of ungraceful demeanour. He is independent 
in his circumstances, and is used to enter 
into society on equal terms ; he is taught the 
modes of address and forms of courtesy, most 
commonly practised and most proper to ingra- 
tiate him into the good opinion of those he 
associates with ; and he is relieved from the 
necessity of following any of those laborious 
trades or callings which cramp, strain, and dis- 
tort the human frame. He is not bound to 
do any one earthly thing ; to use any exertion, 
or put himself in any posture, that is not per- 
fectly easy and graceful, agreeable and becoming. 
Neither is he (at the present day ) recjuired to excel 
in any art or science, game or exercise. He is 
supposed qualified to dance a minuet, not to 
dance on the tight rope — to stand upright, not to 
stand on his head. He has only to sacrifice to the 
Graces. Alcibiades threw away a flute, because 
the playing on it discomposed his features. 
Take the fine gentleman out of the common 



ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 47 

boarding-school or drawing-room accomplish- 
ments, and set him to any ruder or more diffi- 
cult task, and he will make but a sorry figure. 
Ferdinand in the Tempest, when he is put by 
Prospero to carry logs of wood, does not strike 
us as a very heroical character, though he loses 
nothing of the king's son. If a young gallant 
of the first fashion were asked to shoe a horse, 
or hold a plough, or fell a tree, he would make a 
very ridiculous business of the first experiment. 
I saw a set of young naval officers, very gen- 
teel-looking young men, playing at rackets not 
long ago, and it is impossible to describe the 
uncouthness of their motions and unaccountable 
contrivances for hitting the ball. — Something 
effeminate as well as common-place, then, en- 
ters into the composition of the gentleman : he 
is a little of the petit-maitre in his pretensions. 
He is only graceful and accomplished in those 
things to which he has paid almost his whole 
attention, — such as the carriage of his body, 
and adjustment of his dress ; and to which 
he is of sufficient importance in the scale of 
society to attract the idle attention of others. 

A man's manner of presenting himself in 
company is but a superficial test of his real qua- 
lifications. Serjeant Atkinson, we are assured 
by Fielding, would have marched, at the head 



48 ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 

of his platoon, up to a masked battery, with less 
apprehension than he came into a room full of 
pretty women. So we may sometimes see per- 
sons look foolish enough on entering a party, or 
returning a salutation, who instantly feel them- 
selves at home, and recover all their self-posses- 
sion, as soon as any of that sort of conversation 
begins from which nine-tenths of the company 
retire in the extremest trepidation, lest they 
should betray their ignorance or incapacity. A 
high spirit and stubborn pride are often accom- 
panied with an unprepossessing and unpretend- 
ing appearance. The greatest heroes do not 
shew it by their looks. There are individuals 
of a nervous habit, who might be said to abhor 
their own persons, and to startle at their own 
appearance, as the peacock tries to hide its legs. 
They are always shy, uncomfortable, restless ; 
and all their actions are, in a manner, at cross- 
purposes with themselves. This, of course, 
destroys the look we are speaking of, from the 
want of ease and self-confidence. There is 
another sort who have too much negligence of 
manner and contempt for formal punctilios. 
They take their full swing in whatever they are 
about, and make it seem almost necessary to 
get out of their way. Perhaps something of 
this bold, licentious, slovenly, lounging charac- 



ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 49 

ter may be objected by a fastidious eye to the 
appearance of Lord C— — . It might be said 
of him, without disparagement, that he looks 
more Uke a lord than like a gentleman. We 
see nothing petty or finical, assuredly, — no- 
thing hard-bound or reined-in, — but a flowing 
outline, a broad free style. He sits in the 
House of Commons, with his hat slouched over 
his forehead, and a sort of stoop in his shoul" 
ders, as if he cowered over his antagonists, like 
a bird of prey over its quarry, — " hatching vain 
empires." There is an irregular grandeur about 
him, an unwieldy power, loose, disjointed, " vo- 
luminous and vast," — coiled up in the folds of 
its own purposes, — cold, death-like, smooth and 
smiling, — that is neither quite at ease with 
itself, nor safe for others to approach ! On the 
other hand, there is the Marquis Wellesley, 
a jewel of a man. He advances into his place 
in the House of Lords, with head erect, and his 
best foot foremost. The star sparkles on his 
breast, and the garter is seen bound tight below 
his knee. It might be thought that he still 
trod a measure on soft carpets, and was sur- 
rounded, not only by spiritual and temporal 
lords, but 

Stores of ladies, whose bright eyes 
Rain influence, and judge the prize. 

Second Series, vol. ii. E 



50 ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 

The chivalrous spirit that shines through hirm^ 
the air of gallantry in his personal as well as 
rhetorical appeals to the House, glances a partial 
lustre on the Woolsack as he addresses it ; and 
makes Lord Erskine raise his sunken head from 
a dream of transient popularity. His heedless 
vanity throws itself unblushingly on the unsus- 
pecting candour of his hearers, and ravishes mute 
admiration. You would almost guess of this no- 
bleman beforehand that he was a Marquis— some- 
thing higher than an earl, and less important 
than a duke. Nature has just fitted him for 
the niche he fills in the scale of rank or title. 
He is a finished miniature-picture set in bril- 
liants : Lord C might be compared to a 

loose sketch in oil, not properly hung. The 
character of the one is ease, of the other, ele- 
gance. Elegance is something more than ease ; 
it is more than a freedom from awkwardness or 
restraint. It implies, I conceive, a precision, 
a polish, a sparkling effect, spirited yet deli- 
cate, which is perfectly exemplified in Lord 
Wellesley's face and figure. 

The greatest contrast to this little lively no- 
bleman was the late Lord Stanhope. Tall above 
his peers, he presented an appearance some- 
thing between a Patagonian chief and one of 
the liOng Parliament. With his long black hair. 



ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. ol 

^' unkempt and wild '^ — his black clothes, lank 
features, strange antics, and screaming voice, 
he was the Orson of debate. 

A Satyr that comes staring from the woods, 
Cannot at first speak like an orator. 

Yet he was both an orator and a wit in his way. 
His harangues were an odd jumble of logic and 
mechanics, of the Statutes at large and Joe Miller 
jests, of stern principle and sly humour, of 
shrewdness and absurdity, of method and mad- 
ness. What is more extraordinary, he was an 
honest man. He was out of his place in the 
House of Lords. He particularly delighted in his 
eccentric onsets, to make havoc of the bench of 
bishops. " I like," said he, '* to argue with one 
of my lords the bishops ; and the reason why I 
do so is, that I generally have the best of the 
argument." He was altogether a different man 
from Lord Eldon ; yet his lordship '^ gave him 
good ceillades," as he broke a jest, or argued a 
moot-point, and, while he spoke, smiles, roguish 
twinkles, glittered in the Chancellor's eyes. 

The look of the gentleman, " the nobleman- 
look,'* is little else than the reflection of the 
looks of the world. We smile at those who 
smile upon us : we are gracious to those who 
pay their court to us : we naturally acquire con- 
ic 2 



52 ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 

fidence and ease when all goes well with us, 
when we are encouraged by the blandishments of 
fortune, and the good opinion of mankind. A 
whole street bowing regularly to a man every 
time he rides out, may teach him how to pull 
off his hat in return, without supposing a parti- 
cular genius for bowing (more than for govern- 
ing, or any thing else) born in the family. It 
has been observed that persons who sit for their 
pictures improve the character of their counte- 
nances, from the desire they have to procure the 
most favourable representation of themselves. 
" Tell me, pray good Mr. Carmine, when you 
come to the eyes, that I may call up a look," 
says the Alderman's wife, in Foote's Farce of 
Taste. Ladies e;row handsome bv lookino; at 
themselves in the glass, and heightening the 
agreeable airs and expression of features they 
so much admire there. So the favourites of 
fortune adjust themselves in the glass of fashion, 
and the flattering illusions of public opinion. 
Again, the expression of face in the gentleman, 
or thorough-bred man of the world is not that of 
refinement so much as of flexibility ; of sensibi- 
lity or enthusiasm, so much as of indifference : — 
it argues presence of mind, rather than enlarge- 
ment of ideas. In this it differs from the heroic 
and philosophical look. Instead of an intense 



ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 53 

unity of purpose, wound up to some great occa- 
sion, it is dissipated and frittered down into a 
number of evanescent expressions, fitted for 
every variety of unimportant occurrences : in- 
stead of the expansion of general thought or 
intellect, you trace chiefly the little, trite, cau- 
tious, moveable lines of conscious, but concealed 
self-complacency. If Raphael had painted St. 
Paul as a gentleman, what a figure he would have 
made of the great Apostle of the Gentiles — oc- 
cupied with himself, not carried away, raised, 
inspired with his subject — insinuating his doc- 
trines into his audience, not launching them 
from him with the tongues of the Holy Spirit, 
and with looks of fiery scorching zeal ! Gen- 
tlemen luckily can afford to sit for their own 
portraits : painters do not trouble them to sit as 
studies for history. What a difference is there 
in this respect between a Madonna of Raphael, 
and a lady of fashion, even by Vandyke : the 
former refined and elevated, the latter light and 
trifling, with no emanation of soul, no depth of 
feeling, — each arch expression playing on the 
surface, and passing into any other at pleasure, 
— no one thought having its full scope, but 
checked by some other, — soft, careless, insin- 
cere, pleased, aflfected, amiable ! The French 
physiognomy is more cut up and subdivided 



54< ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 

into petty lines and sharp angles than any 
other : it does not want for subtlety, or an air 
of gentility, which last it often has in a remark- 
able degree, — but it is the most unpoetical and 
the least picturesque of all others. I cannot 
explain what I mean by this variable telegraphic 
machinery of polite expression better than by 
an obvious allusion. Every one by walking the 
streets of London (or any other populous city) 
acquires a walk wiiich is easily distinguished 
from that of strangers ; a quick flexibility of 
movement, a smart jerk, an aspiring and confi- 
dent tread, and an air, as if on the alert to keep 
the line of march ; but for all that, there is not 
much grace or grandeur in this local strut : you 
see the person is not a country bumpkin, but 
you would not say, he is a hero or a sage — be- 
cause he is a cockney. So it is in passing 
through the artificial and thickly peopled scenes 
of life. You get the look of a man of the world : 
you rub off the pedant and the clown ; but you 
do not make much progress in wisdom or virtue, 
or in the characteristic expression of either. 

The character of a gentleman (I take it) may 
be explained nearly thus : — A blackguard (im 
vaurien) is a fellow who does not care whom he 
offends : — a clown is a blockhead who does not 
know when he offends : — a gentleman is one w^ho 
understands and shews every mark of deference to 



ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 55 

the claims of self-love in others, and exacts it in re- 
turn from them. Politeness and the pretensions 
to the character in question have reference almost 
entirely to this reciprocal manifestation of good- 
will and good opinion towards each other in 
casual society. Morality regulates our senti- 
ments and conduct as they have a connection 
with ultimate and important consequences : — 
Manners, properly speaking, regulate our words 
and actions in the routine of personal inter- 
course. They have little to do with real kind- 
ness of intention, or practical services, or disin- 
terested sacrifices ; but they put on the garb, 
and mock the appearance of these, in order to 
})revent a breach of the peace, and to smooth 
and varnish over the discordant materials, when 
any number of individuals are brought in con- 
tact together. The conventional compact of 
good manners does not reach beyond the mo- 
ment and the company. Say, for instance, that 
the 7^ahble, the labouring and industrious part of 
the community, are taken up with supplying 
their own wants, and pining over their o\vn 
hardships, — scrambling for what they can get, 
and not refining on any of their pleasures, or 
troubling themselves about the fastidious pre- 
tensions of others : again, there are philoso- 
phers who are busied in the pursuit of truth,— » 



56 ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 

or patriots who are active for the good of their 
country; but here, we will suppose, are a knot 
of people got together, who, having no serious 
wants of their own, with leisure and indepen- 
dence, and caring little about abstract truth or 
practical utiHty, are met for no mortal purpose 
but to say and to do all manner of obliging 
things, to pay the greatest possible respect, and 
shew the most delicate and flattering attentions 
to one another. The politest set of gentlemen 
and ladies in the world can do no more than 
this. The laws that regulate this species of se- 
lect and fantastic society are conformable to 
its ends and origin. The fine gentleman or lady 
must not, on any account, say a rude thing to the 
persons present, but you may turn them into the 
utmost ridicule the instant they are gone : nay, 
not to do so is sometimes considered as an in- 
direct slight to the party that remains. You 
must compliment your bitterest foe to his face, 
and may slander your dearest friend behind his 
back. The last may be immoral, but it is not 
unmannerly. The gallant maintains his title to 
this character by treating every Vvoman he meets 
with the same marked and unremitting atten- 
tion as if she was his mistress : the courtier 
treats every man with the same professions of 
esteem and kindness as if he were an accomplice 



ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 57 

with him in some plot against mankind. Of 
coarse, these professions., made only to please, 
go for nothing in practice. To insist on them 
afterwards as literal obligations, would be to 
betray an ignorance of this kind of interlude, or 
masquerading in real life. To ruin your friend 
at play is not inconsistent with the character of 
a gentleman and a man of honour, if it is done 
with civility ; though to warn him of his dan- 
ger, so as to imply a doubt of his judgment, or 
interference with his will, would be to subject 
yourself to be run through the body with a 
sword. It is that which wounds the self-love 
of the individual that is offensive — that which 
flatters it that is welcome — however salutary the 
one, or however fatal the other may be. A 
habit of plain-speaking is totally contrary to the 
tone of good-breeding. You must prefer the 
opinion of the company to your own, and even 
to truth. I doubt whether a gentleman must not 
be of the Established Church, and a Tory. A 
true cavalier can only be a martyr to prejudice 
or fashion. A Whig lord appears to me as great 
an anomaly as a patriot king. A sectary is sour 
and unsociable. A philosopher is quite out of 
the question. He is in the clouds, and had 
better not be let down on the floor in a basket, 
to play the blockhead. He is sure to conmiit 



58 ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 

himself in good company — and by dealing al- 
ways in abstractions, and driving at generali- 
ties, to offend against the three proprieties of 
time, place, and person. Authors are angry, 
loud, and vehement in argument : the man of 
more refined breeding, who has been *' all tran- 
quillity and smiles," goes away, and tries to ruin 
the antagonist, whom he could not vanquish in 
a dispute. The mannejs of a court and of po- 
lished life are by no means downright, straight- 
forward, but the contrary. They have some- 
thing dramatic in them ; each person plays an 
assumed part; the affected, overstrained polite- 
ness and suppression of real sentiment lead to 
concealed irony, and the spirit of satire and rail- 
lery ; and hence we may account for the per- 
fection of the genteel comedy of the century 
before the last, when poets were allowed to 
mingle in the court-circles, and took their cue 
from the splendid ring 

Of mimic statesmen and their merry king. 

The essence of this sort of conversation and in- 
tercourse, both on and off the stage, has some 
how since evaporated ; the disguises of royalty, 
nobility, gentry have been in some measure 
seen through : we have become individually of 
little importance, compared with greater ob 



ON THE I.OOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 59 

jects, in the eyes of our neighbours, and even 
in our own : abstract topics, not personal pre- 
tensions, are the order of the day ; so that what 
remains of the character we have been talking 
of, is chiefly exotic and provincial, and may be 
seen still flourishing in country-places, in a 
wholesome state of vegetable decay ! 

A man may have the manners of a gentle- 
man without having the look, and he may have 
the character of a gentleman, in a more abstract- 
ed point of view, without the manners. The 
feelings of a gentleman, in this higher sense, 
only denote a more refined humanity — a spirit 
delicate in itself, and unwilling to offend, either 
in the greatest or the smallest things. This 
may be coupled with absence of mind, with ig- 
norance of forms, and frequent blunders. But 
the will is good. The spring of gentle offices 
and true regards is untainted. A person of this 
stamp blushes at an impropriety he was guilty 
of twenty years before, though he is, perhaps, 
liable to repeat it to-morrow. He never forgives 
himself for even a slip of the tongue, that im- 
plies an assumption of superiority over any one. 
In proportion to the concessions made to him, 
he lowers his demands. He gives the wall to a 
beggar * : but does not always bow to great 

* The writer of this Essay once saw a Prince of the 



60 ON THE LOOK OF A GENTLEMAN. 

men. This class of character have been called 
" God Almighty's gentlemen." There are not 

a great many of them. — The late G D 

was one ; for we understand that that gentle- 
man was not able to survive some ill-disposed 
person's having asserted of him, that he had 
mistaken Lord Castlereagh for the author of 
Waverley ! 

Blood pull off his hat to every one in the street, till he came 
to the beggarman that swept the crossing. , This was a nice 
distinction. Farther, it was a distinction that the writer of 
this Essay would not make to be a Prince of the Blood. 
Perhaps, however, a question might be started in the manner 
of Montaigne, whether the beggar did not pull oft'his hat in 
quality of asking charity, and not as a mark of respect. Now 
a Prince may decline giving charity, though he is obliged to 
return a civility. If he does not, he may be treated with dis- 
respect another time, and that is an alternative he is bound 
to prevent. Any other person might set up such a plea, but 
the person to whom a whole street hadbeenbowing just be- 
fore. 



ESSAY III. 



ON READING OLD BOOKS. 






4/ t 









ESSAY III. 

ON READING OLD BOOKS. 



I HATE to read new books. There are twenty 
or thirty volumes that I have read over and over 
again, and these are the only ones that I have 
any desire ever to read at all. It was a long 
time before I could bring myself to sit down to 
the Tales of My Landlord, but now that au- 
thor's works have made a considerable addition 
to my scanty library. I am told that some of 
Lady Morgan's are good, and have been recom- 
mended to look into Anastasius ; but I have 
not yet ventured upon that task. A lady, the 
other day, could not refrain from expressing her 
surprise to a friend, who said he had been read- 
ing Delphine : — she asked, — If it had not been 
published some time back.? Women judge of 
books as they do of fashions or complexions, 
which are admired only " in their newest gloss." 
That is not my way. I am not one of those 
who trouble the circulating libraries much, or 
pester the booksellers for mail-coach copies of 



64 ON HEADING OLD BOOKS. 

Standard periodical publications. 1 cannot say 
that I am greatly addicted to black-letter, but 
I profess myself well versed in the marble bind- 
ings of Andrew Millar, in the middle of the 
last century ; nor does my taste revolt at Thur- 
loe's State Papers, in Russia leather ; or an 
ample impression of Sir William Temple's Essays, 
with a portrait after Sir Godfrey Kneller in 
front. I do not think altogether the worse of 
a book for having survived the author a genera- 
tion or two. I have more confidence in the 
dead than the living. Contemporary writers 
may generally be divided into two classes — one's 
friends or one's foes. Of the first we are com- 
pelled to think too well, and of the last we are 
disposed to think too ill, to receive much genu- 
ine pleasure from the perusal, or to judge fairly 
of the merits of either. One candidate for lite- 
rary fame, who happens to be of our acquaint- 
ance, writes finely, and like a man of genius ; but 
unfortunately has a foolish face, which spoils a 
delicate passage : — another inspires us with the 
highest respect for his personal talents and cha- 
racter, but does not quite come up to our expec- 
tations in print. All these contradictions and 
petty details interrupt the calm ciuTcnt of our 
reflections. If you want to know what any of 
the authors were who lived before our time, and 



ON READING OLD BOOKS. ()5 

are still objects of anxious inquiry, you have 
only to look into their works. But the dust 
and smoke and noise of modern literature have 
nothing in common with the pure, silent air of 
immortality. 

When I take up a work that I have read be- 
fore (the oftener the better) I know what I 
have to expect. The satisfaction is not lessened 
by being anticipated. When the entertainment 
is altogether new, I sit down to it as I should to 
a strange dish, — turn and pick out a bit here 
and there, and am in doubt what to think of 
the composition. There is a want of confidence 
and security to second appetite. New-fangled 
books are also like made-dishes in this respect, 
that they are generally little else than hashes 
and rifaccimentos of what has been served up 
entire and in a more natural state at other times. 
Besides, in thus turning to a well-known author, 
there is not only an assurance that my time will 
not be thrown away, or my palate nauseated 
with the most insipid or vilest trash, — but I 
shake hands with, and look an old, tried, and va- 
lued friend in the face, — compare notes, and chat 
the hours away. It is true, we form dear friend- 
ships with such ideal guests — dearer, alas ! and 
more lasting, than those with our most intimate 
acquaintance. In reading a book which is an 
Second Series, vol. ii. F 



66 ON READING OLD BOOKS. 

old favourite with me (say the first novel I ever 
read) I not only have the pleasure of imagina- 
tion and of a critical relish of the work, but 
the pleasures of memory added to it. It recals 
the same feelings and associations which I had 
in first reading it, and which I can never have 
again in any other way. Standard productions 
of this kind are links in the chain of our con- 
scious being. They bind together the different 
scattered divisions of our personal identity. 
They are land-marks and guides in our journey 
through life. They are pegs and loops on which 
we can hang up, or from wliich we can take 
down, at pleasure, the wardrobe of a moral ima- 
gination, the relics of our best affections, the 
tokens and records of our happiest hours. They 
are " for thoughts and for remembrance ! " They 
are like Fortunatus's Wishing-Cap — they give 
us the best riches — those of Fancy ; and trans- 
port us, not over half the globe, but (which is 
better) over half our lives, at a word's notice ! 

My father Shandy solaced himself with Brus- 
cambille. Give me for this purpose a volume 
of Peregrine Pickle or Tom Jones. Open either 
of them any where — at the Memoirs of Lady 
Vane, or the adventures at the masquerade 
with Lady Bellaston, or the disputes between 
Thwackum and Square, or the escape of Molly 



ON READING OLD BOOKS. (37 

Seagrim, or tlie incident of Sophia and her muff, 
or the edifying proUxity of her aunt's lecture — 
and there 1 find the same delightful, busy, bust- 
ling scene as ever, and feel myself the same as 
when I was first introduced into the midst of it. 
Nay, sometimes the sight of an odd volume of 
these good old English authors on a stall, or the 
name lettered on the back among others on the 
shelves of a library, answers the purpose, revives 
the whole train of ideas, and sets " the puppets 
dallying." Twenty years are struck off the 
list, and I am a child again, A sage philoso- 
pher, who was not a very wise man, said, that 
he should like very well to be young again, if 
he could take his experience along with him. 
This ingenious person did not seem to be aware, 
by the gravity of his remark, that the great ad- 
vantage of being young is to be without this 
weight of experience, which he would fain place 
upon the shoulders of youth, and which never 
comes too late with years. Oh ! what a privi- 
lege to be able to let this hump, like Christian's 
burthen, drop from off one's back, and trans- 
port one's-self, by the help of a little musty 
duodecimo, to the time when " ignorance was 
bliss," and when we first got a peep at the raree- 
show of the world, through the glass of fiction-r- 
gazing at mankind, as we do at wild beasts in a 
menagerie, through the bars of their cages, — or 

F 2 



68 ON READING OLD BOOKS. 

at curiosities in a museum, that we must not 
touch ! For myself, not only are the old ideas 
of the contents of the work brought back to my 
mind in all their vividness, but the old associa- 
tions of the faces and persons of those I then 
knew, as they were in their life-time — the place 
where I sat to read the volume, the day when I 
got it, the feeling of the air, the fields, the sky — 
return, and all my early impressions with them. 
This is better to me — those places, those times, 
those persons, and those feelings that come across 
me as I retrace the story and devour the page, 
are to me better far than the wet sheets of the 
last new novel from the Ballantyne press, to 
say nothing of the Minerva press in Leadenhall- 
street. It is like visiting the scenes of early 
youth. I think of the time " when I was in my 
father's house, and my path ran down with but- 
ter and honey," — when 1 was a little, thought- 
less child, and had no other wish or care but to 
con my daily task, and be happy ! — Tom Jones, I 
remember, was the first work that broke the 
spell. It came down in numbers once a fort- 
night, in Cooke's pocket-edition, embellished 
with cuts. I had hitherto read only in school- 
books, and a tiresome ecclesiastical history (with 
the exception of Mrs. Radcliffe's Romance of 
the Forest) : but this had a different relish with 



ON READING OLD BOOKS 69 

it, — " sweet in the mouth,' though not " bitter 
in the belly." It smacked of the world I lived 
in, and in which I was to live — and shewed me 
groups, '\gay creatures'* not " of the element,*' 
but of the earth ; not " living in the clouds," 
but travelling the same road that I did ; — some 
that had passed on before me, and others that 
might soon overtake me. My heart had palpi- 
tated at the thoughts of a boarding-school ball, 
or gala-day at Midsummer or Christmas : but 
the world I had found out in Cooke's edition of 
the British Novelists was to me a dance through 
life, a perpetual gala-day. The six-penny num- 
bers of this work regularly contrived to leave off 
just in the middle of a sentence, and in the nick 
of a story, where Tom Jones discovers Square 
behind the blanket ; or where Parson Adams, 
in the inextricable confusion of events, very un- 
designedly gets to bed to Mrs. Slip-slop. Let 
me caution the reader against this impression of 
Joseph Andrews ; for there is a picture of Fanny 
in it which he should not set his heart on, lest 
he should never meet with any thing like it ; or 
if he should, it would, perhaps, be better for 

him that he had not. It was just like ! 

With what eagerness I used to look forward to 
the next number, and open the prints ! Ah ! 
never again shall I feel the enthusiastic delight 



70 ON READING OLD BOOKS. 

with which I gazed at the figures, and antici- 
pated the story and adventures of Major Bath 
and Commodore Trunnion, of Trim and my 
Uncle Toby, of Don Quixote and Sancho and 
Dapple, of Gil Bias and Dame Lorenza Sephora, 
of Laura and the fair Lucretia, whose lips open 
and shut like buds of roses. To what nameless 
ideas did they give rise, — with what airy de- 
lights I filled up the outlines, as I hung in si- 
lence over the page ! — Let me still recal them, 
that they may breathe fresh life into me, and that 
I may live that birthday of thought and roman- 
tic pleasure over again ! Talk of the ideal ! 
This is the only true ideal — the heavenly tints 
of Fancy reflected in the bubbles that float upon 
the spring-tide of human life. 

Oh ! Memory ! shield me from the world's poor strife, 
And give those scenes thine everlasting life ! 

The paradox with which I set out is, I hope, 
less startling than it was ; the reader will, by this 
time, have been let into my secret. Much 
about the same time, or I believe rather earlier, 
I took a particular satisfaction in reading 
Chubb's Tracts, and I often think I will get 
them again to wade through. There is a high 
gusto of polemical divinity in them ; and you 
fancy that you hear a club of shoemakers at 
Salisbury, debating a disputable text from one 



ON READING OLD BOOKS. 71 

of* St. Paul's Epistles in a workmanlike style, 
with equal shrewdness and pertinacity. I can- 
not say much for my metaphysical studies, 
into which I launched shortly after with great 
ardour, so as to make a toil of a pleasure. I 
was presently entangled in the briars and thorns 
of subtle distinctions, — of " fate, free-will, fore- 
knowledge absolute," though I cannot add that 
" in their wandering mazes I found no end ;'* 
for I did arrive at some very satisfactory and 
potent conclusions ; nor will I go so far, how- 
ever ungrateful the subject might seem, as to 
exclaim with Marlowe's Faustus — " Would I 
had never seen Wittenberg, never read book" 
— that is, never studied such authors as Hart- 
ley, Hume, Berkeley, &c. Locke's Essay on 
the Human Understanding is, however, a work 
from which I never derived either pleasure or 
profit ; and Hobbes, dry and powerful as he is, 
I did not read till long afterwards. I read a 
few poets, which did not much hit my taste, — 
for I would have the reader understand, I am 
deficient in the faculty of imagination ; but I 
fell early upon French romances and philosophy, 
and devoured them tooth-and-nail. Many a 
dainty repast have I made of the New Eloise ; — 
the description of the kiss ; the excursion on the 
water ; the letter of St. Preux, recalling the time 



72 ON READING OLD BOOKS. 

of their first loves ; and the account of Julia's 
death ; these I read over and over again with 
unspeakable delight and wonder. Some years 
after, when I met with this work again, I found 
I had lost nearly my whole relish for it (except 
some few parts) and was, I remember, very 
much mortified with the change in my taste, 
which I sought to attribute to the smallness and 
gilt edges of the edition I had bought, and its 
being perfumed with rose-leaves. Nothing 
could exceed the gravity, the solemnity with 
which I carried home and read the Dedication 
to the Social Contract, with some other pieces of 
the same author, which I had picked up at a stall 
in a coarse leathern cover. Of the Confessions 
I have spoken elsewhere, and may repeat what 
I have said — " Sweet is the dew of their memo- 
ry, and pleasant the balm of their recollection !'» 
Their beauties are not " scattered like stray- 
gifts o'er the earth," but sown thick on the 
page, rich and rare. I wish I had never read 
the Emilius, or read it with less implicit 
faith. I had no occasion to pamper my 
natural aversion to affectation or pretence, by 
romantic and artificial means. I had better 
have formed myself on the model of Sir Fopling 
Flutter. There is a class of persons whose 
virtues and most shining qualities sink in, and 



ON READING OLD BOOKS. JS 

are concealed by, an absorbent ground of mo- 
desty and reserve ; and such a one I do, with- 
out vanity, profess myself*. Now these are 
the very persons who are likely to attach them- 
selves to the character of Emilius, and of whom 
it is sure to be the bane. This dull, phlegma- 
tic, retiring humour is not in a fair way to be 
corrected, but confirmed and rendered desperate, 
by being in tiiat work held up as an object of 
imitation, as an example of simplicity and mag- 
nanimity — by coming upon us with all the re- 
commendations of novelty, surprise, and supe- 
riority to the prejudices of the world — by being 
stuck upon a pedestal, made amiable, dazzling, 
a leurre de dupe ! The reliance on solid worth 
which it inculcates, the preference of sober 
truth to gaudy tinsel, hangs like a mill- stone 
round the neck of the imagination — " a load to 
sink a navy" — impedes our progress, and blocks 
up every prospect in life. A man, to get on, to 
be successful, conspicuous, applauded, should 
not retire upon the centre of his conscious re- 

* Nearly the same sentiment was wittily and happily ex- 
pressed by a friend, who had some lottery puiFs, which he 
had been employed to write, returned on his hands for their 
too great severity of thought and classical terseness of style, 
and who observed on that occasion, that "Modest merit 
never can succeed ! " 



74 ON READING OLD BOOKS. 

sources, but be always at the circumference of 
appearances. He must envelop himself in a 
halo of mystery — he must ride in an equipage 
of opinion — he must walk with a train of self- 
conceit following him — he must not strip him- 
self to a buff-jerkin, to the doublet and hose of 
his real merits, but must surround himself with 
a cortege of prejudices, like the signs of the 
Zodiac — he must seem any thing but what he 
is, and then he may pass for any thing he 
pleases. The world love to be amused by hol- 
low professions, to be deceived by flattering 
appearances, to live in a state of hallucination ; 
and can forgive every thing but the plain, 
downright, simple honest truth — such as we see 
it chalked out in the character of Emilius. — 
To return from this digession, which is a 
little out of place here. 

Books have in a great measure lost their 
power over me ; nor can I revive the same in- 
terest in them as formerly. I perceive when a 
thing is good, rather than feel it. It is true, 

Marcian Colonna is a dainty book ; 
and the reading of Mr. Keats's Eve of Saint 
Agnes lately made me regret that I was not 
young again. The beautiful and tender images 
there conjured up, " come like shadows — so 
depart." The " tiger-moth's wings," which he 



ON READING OLD BOOKS. 75 

has spread over his rich poetic blazonry, just flit 
across my fancy ; the gorgeous twilight window 
which he has painted over again in his verse, to me 
" blushes" almost in vain " with blood of queens 
and kings." I know how I should have felt at 
one time in reading such passages ; and that is 
all. The sharp luscious flavour, the fine aroma 
is fled, and nothing but the stalk, the bran, the 
husk of literature is left. If any one were to 
ask me what I read now, I might answer with 
my Lord Hamlet in the play — " Words, words, 
words."—" What is the matter ?" — ''Nothing /" 
— They have scarce a meaning. But it was not 
always so. There was a time when to my 
thinking, every word was a flower or a pearl, 
like those which dropped from the mouth of the 
little peasant-girl in the Fairy tale, or like those 
thatfall from the great preacher in theCaledonian 
Chapel I I drank of the stream of knowledge 
that tempted, but did not mock my lips, as of 
the river of life, freely. How eagerly 1 slaked 
my thirst of German sentiment, " as the hart 
that panteth for the water-springs ;" how I 
bathed and revelled, and added my floods of 
tears to Goethe's Sorrows of Werter, and to 
Schiller's Robbers — 

<xiving my stock of more to that which had too much ! 



76 ON READING OLD BOOKS. 

I read, and assented with all my soul to Cole- 
«• 
ridge's fine Sonnet, beginning — 

Schiller ! that hour I would have wish'd to die, 
If through the shuddering midnight I had sent, 
From the dark dungeon of the tow'r time-rent. 
That fearful voice, a famish'd father's cry ! 

I believe I may date my insight into the mys- 
teries of poetry from the commencement of my 
acquaintance with the authors of the Lyrical Bal- 
lads ; at least, my discrimination of the higher 
sorts — not my predilection for such writers as 
Goldsmith or Pope : nor do I imagine they will 
sayl got my liking for the Novelists, or the comic 
writers, — for the characters of Valentine, Tattle, 
or Miss Prue, from them. If so, I must have 
got from them what they never had themselves. 
In points where poetic diction and conception 
are concerned, I may be at a loss, and liable to 
be imposed upon : but in forming an estimate of 
passages relating to common life and manners, I 
cannot think I am a plagiarist from any man. I 
there •' know my cue without a prompter." I 
may say of such studies — Intus et in cute. I am 
just able to admire those literal touches of ob- 
servation and description, which persons of 
loftier pretensions overlook and despise. I think 
I comprehend something of the characteristic 



r/f-y 



ON READING OLD BOOKS. 77 

part of Shakspeare ; and in him indeed, all is 
characteristic, even the nonsense and poetry. I 
believe it was the celebrated Sir Humphrey Davy 
who used to say, that Shakspeare was rather a 
metaphysician than a poet. At any rate, it 
was not ill said. I wish that I had sooner 
known the dramatic writers contemporary with 
Shakspeare ; for in looking them over about a 
year ago, I almost revived my old passion 
for reading, and my old delight in books, 
though they were very nearly new to me. 
The Periodical Essayists I read long ago. The 
Spectator I liked extremely : but the Tatler 
took my fancy most. I read the others soon 
after, the Rambler, the Adventurer, the World, 
the Connoisseur : I was not sorry to get to the 
end of them, and have no desire to go regularly 
through them again. I consider myself a tho- 
rough adept in Richardson. I like the longest 
of his novels best, and think no part of them 
tedious ; nor. should I ask to have any thing 
better to do than to read them from beginning 
to end, to take them up when I chose, and lay 
them down when I was tired, in some old family 
mansion in the country, till every word and 
syllable relating to the bright Clarissa, the divine 
Clementina, the beautiful Pamela, " with every 
trick and line of their sweet favour," were once 



78 ON READING OLD BOOKS. 

more " graven in my heart's table *." I have a 
sneaking kindness for Mackenzie's Julia de Rou- 
bigne — for the deserted mansion, and straggling 
gilliflowers on the mouldering garden-wall ; and 
still more for his Man of Feeling ; not that it is 
better, nor so good ; but at the time I read it, I 
sometimes thought of the heroine, Miss Walton, 

and of Miss together, and " that ligament, 

fine as it was, was never broken !" — One of the poets 
that I have always read with most pleasure, and 
can wander about in for ever with a sort of volup- 
tuous indolence, is Spenser j and I like Chaucer 
even better. The only writer among the Italians 
I can pretend to any knowledge of, is Boccacio, 
and of him I cannot express half my admiration. 
His story of the Hawk I could read and think of 
from day to day, just as I would look at a pic- 
ture of Titian's ! — 

* During the peace of Amiens, a young English officer, 
of the name of Lovelace, was presented at Buonaparte's 
levee. Instead of the usual question, " Where have you 
served, Sir?" the First Consul immediately addressed him, 
" I perceive your name, Sir, is the same as that of the hero 
of Richardson's Romance !" Here was a Consul. The young 
man's uncle, who was called Lovelace, told me this anecdote 
while we were stopping together at Calais. I had also been 
thinking that his was the same name as that of the hero of 
Richardson's Romance. This is one of my I'easons for liking 
Buonaparte. 



ON READING OLD BOOKS. 79 

I remember, as long ago as the year 1798, 
going to a neighbouring town (Shrewsbury, 
where Farquhar has laid the plot of his Recruit- 
ing Officer) and bringing home with me, " at 
one proud swoop," a copy of Milton's Paradise 
Lost, and another of Burke's Reflections on tlie 
French Revolution — both which I have still ; 
and I still recollect, when I see the covers, the 
pleasure with which I dipped into them as 1 
returned with my double prize. I was set up 
for one while. That time is past " with all its 
giddy raptures :" but I am still anxious to pre- 
serve its memory, " embalmed with odours." — 
With respect to the first of these works, I would 
be permitted to remark here in passing, that it 
is a sufficient answer to the German criticism 
which has since been started against the cha- 
racter of Satan (viz. that it is not one of disgust- 
ing deformity, or pure, defecated malice) to say 
that Milton has there drawn, not the abstract 
principle of evil, not a devil incarnate, but a 
fallen angel. This is the scriptural account, 
and the poet has followed it. We may safely 
retain such passages as that well-known one — 

His form had not yet lost 

All her original brightness ; nor appear'd 
Less than archangel ruin'd ; and the excess 
Of glory obscur'd — 



80 ON READING OLD BOOKS. 

for the theory, which is opposed to them, " fails 
flat upon the grimsel edge, and shames its wor- 
shippers." Let us hear no more then of this 
monkish cant, and bigotted outcry for the re- 
storation of the horns and tail of the devil ! — 
Again, as to the other work, Burke's Reflections, 
I took a particular pride and pleasure in it, and 
read it to myself and others for months after- 
wards. I had reason for my prejudice in favour 
of this author. To understand an adversary is 
some praise : to admire him is more. I thought 
I did both : I knew I did one. From the first 
time I ever cast my eyes on any thing of 
Burke's (which was an extract from his Letter 
to a Noble Lord in a three-times a week paper, 
The St. James's Chronicle, in 1790), I said to 
myself, " This is true eloquence : this is a man 
pouring out his mind on paper." All other style 
seemed to me pedantic and impertinent. Dr. 
Johnson's was walking on stilts ; and even Junius's 
(who was at that time a favourite with me) 
with all his terseness, shrunk up into little anti- 
thetic points and well-trimmed sentences. But 
Burke's style was forked and playful as the 
lightning, crested like the serpent. He deli- 
vered plain things on a plain ground ; but when 
he rose, there was no end of his flights and cir- 
cumgyrations — and in this very Letter, ''he, 



ON READING OLD BOOKS. 81 

like an eagle in a dove-cot, fluttered his Vol- 
scians" (the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of 
Lauderdale *) " in Corioli." I did not care for 
his doctrines. I was then, and am still, proof 
against their contagion ; but I admired the au- 
thor, and was considered as not a very staunch 
partisan of the opposite side, though I thought 
myself that an abstract proposition was one 
thing — a masterly transition, a brilliant meta- 
phor, another. I conceived too that he might 
be wrong in his main argument, and yet deliver 
fifty truths in arriving at a false conclusion. I 
remember Coleridge assuring me, as a poetical 
and political set-oiFto my sceptical admiration, 
that Wordsworth had written an Essay on Mar- 
riage, which, for manly thought and nervous ex- 
pression, he deemed incomparably superior. 
As I had not, at that time, seen any specimens 
of Mr. Wordsworth's prose style, I could not ex- 
press my doubts on the subject. If there are 
greater prose-writers than Burke, they either lie 
out of my course of study, or are beyond my 
sphere of comprehension. I am too old to be a 
convert to a new mythology of genius. The 
niches are occupied, the tables are full. If such 
is still my admiration of this man's misapplied 

* He is there called " Citizen Lauderdale.'' Is this the 
present Earl ? 

Second Series, vol. ii. G 



82 ON READING OLD BOOKS. 

powers, what must it have been at a time when 
I myself was in vain trying, year after year, to 
write a single Essay, nay, a single page or sen- 
tence ; when I regarded the wonders of his pen 
with the longing eyes of one who was dumb and 
a changeling ; and when, to be able to convey 
the slightest conception of my meaning to others 
in words, was the height of an almost hopeless 
ambition ! But I never measured others' excel- 
lences by my own defects : though a sense of 
my own incapacity, and of the steep, impassable 
ascent from me to them, made me regard them 
with greater awe and fondness. I have thus 
run through most of my early studies and fa- 
vourite authors, some of whom I have since cri- 
ticised more at large. Whether those observa- 
tions will survive me, I neither know nor do 
I much care : but to the works themselves, 
" worthy of all acceptation," and to the feel- 
ings they have always excited in me since I 
could distinguish a meaning in language, no- 
thing shall ever prevent me from looking back 
with gratitude and triumph. To have lived in 
the cultivation of an intimacy with such works, 
and to have familiarly relished such names, is 
not to have lived quite in vain. 

There are other authors whom I have never 
read, and yet whom I have iiequently had a 



ON READING OLD BOOKS. 83 

great desire to read, from some circumstance 
relating to them. Among these is Lord Cla- 
rendon's History of the Grand Rebellion, after 
which I have a hankering, from hearing it 
spoken of by good judges — from my interest 
in the events, and knowledge of the characters 
from other sources, and from having seen fine 
portraits of most of them. I like to read a 
well-penned character, and Clarendon is said to 
have been a master in this way. I should like 
to read Froissart's Chronicles, Hollinshed and 
Stowe, and Fuller's Worthies. I intend, when- 
ever I can, to read Beaumont and Fletcher all 
through. There are fifty-two of their plays, and 
I have only read a dozen or fourteen of them. 
A Wife for a Month, and Thierry and Theo- 
doret, are, I am told, delicious, and I can be- 
lieve it. I should like to read the speeches in 
Thucydides, and Guicciardini's History of Flo- 
rence, and Don Quixote in the original. I have 
often thought of reading the Loves of Persiles 
and Sigismunda, and the Galatea of the same 
author. But I somehow reserve them like 
** another Yarrow." I should also like to read 
the last new novel (if I could be sure it was so) 
of the author of Waverley : — no one would be 
more glad than I to find it the best ! — 

G 2 



ESSAY IV. 

ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 



ESSAY IV. 

ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 



" Men palliate and conceal their original qualities, but do 
not extirpate them." Montaigne's Essai/s. 

No one ever changes his character from the 
time he is two years old ; nay, I might say, 
from the time he is two hours old. We may, 
with instruction and opportunity, mend our 
manners, or else alter for the worse, — " as the 
flesh and fortune shall serve ;" but the cha- 
racter, the internal, original bias, remains always 
the same, true to itself to the very last — 

"And feels the ruling passion strong in death!" 

A very grave and dispassionate philosopher 
(the late celebrated chemist, Mr. Nicholson) 
was so impressed with the conviction of the in- 
stantaneous commencement and development 
of the character with the birth, that he pub- 
lished a long and amusing article in the Monthly 
Magazine, giving a detailed account of the pro- 
gress, history, education, and tempers of two 



88 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

twins, up to the period of their being eleven 
days old. This is, perhaps, considering the 
matter too curiously, and would amount to a 
species of horoscopy, if we were to build on 
such premature indications ; but the germ no 
doubt is there, though we must wait a little 
longer to see what form it takes. We need not 
in general wait long. The Devil soon betrays 
the cloven foot ; or a milder and better spirit 
appears in its stead. A temper sullen or active, 
shy or bold, grave or lively, selfish or romantic, 
(to say nothing of quickness or dulness of appre- 
hension) is manifest very early ; and imper- 
ceptibly, but irresistibly moulds our inclina- 
tions, habits, and pursuits through life. The 
greater or less degree of animal spirits, — of 
nervous irritability, — the complexion of the 
blood, — the proportion of "hot, cold, moist, 
and dry, four champions fierce that strive for 
mastery," — the Saturnine or the Mercurial, — 
the disposition to be affected by objects near, 
or at a distance, or not at all, — to be struck 
with novelty, or to brood over deep-rooted im- 
presssions, — to indulge in laughter or in tears, 
the leaven of passion or of prudence that tem- 
pers this frail clay, is born with us, and never 
quits us. " It is not in our stars," in planetary 
influence, but neither is it owing *' to ourselves, 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 89 

that we are thus or thus."' The accession of know- 
ledge, the pressure of circumstances, favourable 
or unfavourable, does little more than minister 
occasion to the first predisposing bias-than assist, 
like the dews of heaven, or retard, like the nip- 
ping north, the growth of the seed originally 
sown in our constitution — than give a more or 
less decided expression to that personal charac- 
ter, the outlines of which nothing can alter. 
What I mean is, that Blifil and Tom Jones, for 
instance, by changing places, would never have 
changed characters. The one might, from cir- 
cumstances, and from the notions instilled into 
him, have become a little less selfish, and the 
other a little less extravagant ; but with a trifling 
allowance of this sort, taking the proposition 
cum grano salis, they would have been just 
where they set out. Blifil would have been 
Blifil still, and Jones what nature intended him 
to be. I have made use of this example with- 
out any apology for its being a fictitious one, 
because I think good novels are the most au- 
thentic as well as most accessible repositories of 
the natural history and philosophy of the 
species. 

I shall not borrow assistance or illustration 
from the organic system of Doctors Gall and 
Spurzheim, which reduces this question to a 



90 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

small compass and very distinct limits, because 
I do not understand or believe in it : but I 
think those who put faith in physiognomy at 
all, or imagine that the mind is stamped upon 
the countenance, must believe that there is such 
a thing as an essential difference of character in 
different individuals. We do not change our 
features with our situations ; neither do we 
change the capacities or inclinations which lurk 
beneath them. A flat face does not become an 
oval one, nor a pug nose a Roman one, with the 
acquisition of an office, or the addition of a 
title. So neither is the pert, hard, unfeeling 
outline of character turned from selfishness and 
cunning to openness and generosity, by any 
softening of circumstances. If the face puts on 
an habitual smile in the sunshine of fortune, or 
if it suddenly lowers in the storms of adversity, 
do not trust too implicitly to appearances ; the 
man is the same at bottom. The designing 
knave may sometimes wear a vizor, or, " to be- 
guile the time, look like the time ; " but watch 
him narrowly, and you will detect him behind 
his mask ! We recognise, after a length of years, 
the same well-known face that we were formerly 
acquainted with, changed by time, but the same 
in itself; and can trace the features of the boy 
m the full-grown man. Can we doubt that the 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 91 

character and thoughts have remained as much 
the same all that time ; have borne the same 
image and superscription ; have grown with the 
growth, and strengthened with the strength ? 
In this sense, and in Mr. Wordsworth's phrase, 
** the child's the father of the man " surely 
enough. The same tendencies may not always 
be equally visible, but they are still in existence, 
and break out, whenever they dare and can, the 
more for being checked. Again, we often dis- 
tinctly notice the same features, the same bodily 
peculiarities, the same look and gestures, in dif- 
ferent persons of the same family; and find this 
resemblance extending to collateral branches 
and through several generations, shewing how 
strongly nature must have been warped and 
biassed in that particular direction at first. This 
pre-determination in the blood has its caprices 
too, and w^ayward as well as obstinate fits. The 
family-likeness sometimes skips over the next of 
kin or the nearest branch, and re-appears in all 
its singularity in a second or third cousin, or 
passes over the son to the grand-child. Where 
the pictures of the heirs and successors to a 
title or estate have been preserved for any 
length of time in Gothic halls and old-fashioned 
mansions, the prevailing outline and character 
does not wear out, but may be traced through 



92 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

its numerous inflections and descents, like the 
winding of a river through an expanse of coun- 
try, for centuries. The ancestor of many a 
noble house has sat for the portraits of his 
youthful descendants ; and still the soul of 
" Fairfax and the starry Vere," consecrated in 
Marvel's verse, may be seen mantling in the 
suffused features of some young court-beauty 
of the present day. The portrait of Judge 
Jeffries, which was exhibited lately in the Gal- 
lery in Pall Mall — young, handsome, spirited, 
good-humoured, and totally unlike, at first view, 
what you would expect from the character, was 
an exact likeness of two young men whom I 
knew some years ago, the living representatives 
of that family. It is curious that, consistently 
enough with the delineation in the portrait, old 
Evelvn should have recorded in his Memoirs, 
that " he saw the Chief- Justice Jeffries in a 
large company the night before, and that he 
thought he laughed, drank, and danced too 
much for a man who had that day condemned 
Algernon Sidney to the block." It is not 
always possible to foresee the tyger's spring, till 
we are in his grasp ; the fawning, cruel eye 
dooms its prey, while it glitters ! Features alone 
do not run in the blood ; vices and virtues, 
genius and folly are transmitted through the 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 93 

same sure, but unseen channel. There is an 
invohintary, unaccountable family character, as 
well as family face ; and we see it manifesting 
itself in the same way, with unbroken continu- 
ity, or by fits and starts. There shall be a regu- 
lar breed of misers, of incorrigible old hunkses 
in a family, time out of mind ; or the shame of 
the thing, and the hardships and restraint im- 
posed upon him while young, shall urge some 
desperate spendthrift to wipe out the reproach 
upon his name by a course of extravagance and 
debauchery ; and his immediate successors shall 
make his example an excuse for relapsing into 
the old jog-trot incurable infirmity, the grasping 
and pinching disease of the family again *. A 
person may be indebted for a nose or an eye, 
for a graceful carriage or a voluble discourse, 
to a great-aunt or uncle, whose existence he 
has scarcely heard of; and distant relations 
are surprised, on some casual introduction, to 

* " I know at this time a person of vast estate, who is the 
immediate descendant of a fine gentleman, but the great- 
grandson of a broker, in whom his ancestor is now revived. 
He is a very honest gentleman in his principles, but cannot 
for his blood talk fairly : he is heartily sorry for it ; but 
he cheats by constitution, and over-reaches by instinct." — 
i See this subject delightfully treated in the 75th Number of 
the Taller, in an account of Mr. Bickerstaff's pedigree, on 
occasion of his sister's marriage. 



94< ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

find each other an alter idem. Country cousins, 
who meet after they are grown up for the 
first time in London, often start at the like- 
ness, — it is Hke looking at themselves in the 
glass — nay, they shall see, almost before they 
exchange a word, their own thoughts (as it were) 
staring them in the face, the same ideas, feel- 
ings, opinions, passions, prejudices, likings and 
antipathies ; the same turn of mind and senti- 
ment, the same foibles, peculiarities, faults, 
follies, misfortunes, consolations, the same self, 
the same every thing ! And farther, this coinci- 
dence shall take place and be most remarkable, 
where not only no intercourse has previously been 
kept up, not even by letter or by common friends, 
but where the different branches of a family have 
been estranged for long years, and where the 
younger part in each have been brought up in 
totally different situations, with different studies, 
pursuits, expectations and opportunities. To as- 
sure me that this is owing to circumstances, is to as- 
sure me of a gratuitous absurdity, which you can- 
not know, and which I shall not believe. It is 
owing, not to circumstances, but to the force of 
kind, to the stuff of which our blood and hu- 
mours are compounded being the same. Why 
should I and an old hair-brained uncle of mine 
fasten upon the same picture in a Collection, 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 95 

and talk of it for years after, though one of no 
particuhir "mark or hkehhood" in itself, but 
for something congenial in the look to our own 
humour and way of seeing nature ? Why should 

my cousin L and I fix upon the same book, 

Tristram Shandy, — without comparing notes, 
have it " doubled down and dog-eared'* in the 
same places, and live upon it as a sort of food 
that assimilated with our natural dispositions ? — 
" Instinct, Hal, instinct!" They are fools who 
say otherwise, and have never studied nature or 
mankind, but in books and S3^stems of philoso- 
phy. But, indeed, the colour of our lives is 
woven into the fatal thread at our births : our 
original sins, and our redeeming graces are in- 
fused into us ; nor is the bond, that confirms 
our destiny, ever cancelled. 

Beneath the hills, amid the flowery groves, 
The generations are prepar'd ; the pangs, 
The internal pangs, are ready ; the dread strife 
Of poor humanity's afflicted will 
Struggling in vain with ruthless destiny. 

The " winged wounds " that rankle in our 
breasts to our latest day, were planted there long 
since, ticketed and labelled on the outside in 
small but indelible characters, written in our 
blood, " like that ensanguined flower inscribed 
with woe :" we are in the toils from the very 



96 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

first, hemmed in by the hunters ; and these are 
our own passions, bred of onr brain and hu- 
mours, and that never leave us, but consume 
and gnaw the heart in our short hfe-time, as 
worms wait for us in the grave ! 

Critics and authors, who congregate in large 
cities, and see nothing of the world but a sort 
of phantasmagoria, to whom the numberless 
characters they meet in the course of a few 
hours are fugitive " as the flies of a summer," 
evanescent as the figures in a camera obscvra, 
may talk very learnedly, and attribute the mo- 
tions of the puppets to circumstances of which 
they are confessedly in total ignorance. They 
see character only in the bust, and have not 
room (for the crowd) to study it as a whole- 
length, that is, as it exists in reality. But those 
who trace things to their source, and proceed 
from individuals to generals, know better. 
School-boys, for example, who are early let into 
the secret, and see the seeds growing, are not 
only sound judges, but true prophets of charac- 
ter ; so that the nick-names they give their 
play-fellows usually stick by them ever after. 
The gossips in country-towns, also, who study 
human nature, not merely in the history of the 
individual, but in the genealogy of the race, 
know the comparative anatomy of the minds of 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 97 

a whole neighbourhood to a tittle, where to look 
for marks and defects, — explain a vulgarity by 
a cross in the breed, or a foppish air in a young 
tradesman by his grandmother's marriage with 
a dancing-master, and are the only practical 
conjurors and expert decypherers of the deter- 
minate lines of true or supposititious character. 

The character of women (I should think it 
will at this time of day be granted) differs es- 
sentially from that of men, not less so than 
their shape or the texture of their skin. It has 
been said indeed, " Most women have no cha- 
racter at all,'* — and on the other hand, the fair 
and eloquent authoress of the Rights of Women 
was for establishing the masculine pretensions 
and privileges of her sex on a perfect equality 
with ours. I shall leave Pope and Mary Wol- 
stonecraft to settle that point between them. 
I should laugh at any one who told me that the 
European, the Asiatic, and the African charac- 
ter were the same. I no more believe it than 
I do that black is the same colour as white, or 
that a straight line is a crooked one. We see in 
whole nations and large classes the physiogno- 
mies, and I should suppose (" not to speak it 
profanely") the general characters of different 
animals with which we are acquainted, as of the 
fox, the wolf, the hog, the goat, the dog, the 

Second Series, vol. ii. H 



98 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

monkey ; and I suspect this analogy, whether 
perceived or not, has as prevailing an influence 
on their habits and actions, as any theory of 
moral sentiments taught in the schools. Rules 
and precautions may, no doubt, be applied to 
counteract the excesses and overt demonstra- 
tions of any such characteristic infirmity ; but 
still the disease will be in the mind, an im- 
pediment, not a help to virtue. An exception 
is usually taken to all national or general reflec- 
tions, as unjust and illiberal, because they can- 
not be true of every individual. It is not 
meant that they are ; and besides, the same 
captious objection is not made to the handsome 
things that are said of w^hole bodies and classes 
of men, A lofty panegyric, a boasted virtue 
will fit the inhabitants of an entire district to a 
hair ; the want of strict universality, of philo- 
sophical and abstract truth, is no difficulty here; 
but if you hint at an obvious vice or defect, this 
is instantly construed into k most unfair and 
partial view of the case, and each defaulter 
throws the imputation from himself and his 
country with scorn. Thus you may praise the 
generosity of the English, the prudence of the 
Scotch, the hospitality of the Irish, as long as 
you please, and not a syllable is whispered 
against these sweeping expressions of admira- 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 99 

tlon ; but reverse the picture, hold up to cen- 
sure, or only glance at the imfavourable side 
of each character (and they themselves admit 
that they have a distinguishing and generic 
character as a people), and you are assailed by 
the most violent clamours, and a confused Babel 
of noises, as a disseminator of unfounded pre- 
judices, or a libeller of human nature. I am 
sure there is nothing reasonable in this. — Harsh 
and disagreeable qualities wear out in nations, 
as in individuals, from time and intercourse with 
tlie world ; but it is at the expense of their in- 
trinsic excellences. The vices of softness and 
effeminacy sink deeper with age, like thorns in 
the flesh. Single acts or events often determine 
the fate of mortals, yet may have nothing to 
do with their general deserts or failings. He 
who is said to be cured of any glaring infirmity 
may be suspected never to have had it -, and 
lastly, it may be laid down as a general rule, 
that mankind improve, by means of luxury and 
civilization, in social manners, and become more 
depraved in what relates to personal habits and 
character. There are few nations, as well as few 
men (with the exception of tyrants) that are 
cruel and voluptuous, immersed in pleasure, 
and bent on inflicting pain on others, at the 
same time. Ferociousness is the characteris- 

H 2 



100 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

tic of barbarous ages, licentiousness of more 
refined periods *. 

I shall not undertake to decide exactly how 
far the original character may be modified by 
the general progress of society, or by particular 
circumstances happening to the individual ; but 
I think the alteration (be it what it may) is more 
apparent than real, more in conduct than in 
feeling. I will not deny, that an extreme and 
violent difference of circumstances (as that be- 
tween the savage and civilized state) will super- 
sede the common distinctions of character, and 
prevent certain dispositions and sentiments from 
ever developing themselves. Yet with reference 
to this, I would observe, in the first place, that 
in the most opposite ranks and conditions of 
life, we find qualities shewing themselves, which 
we should have least expected, — grace in a 
cottage, humanity in a bandit, sincerity in 
courts ; and secondly, in ordinary cases, and in 
the mixed mass of human affairs, the mind con- 
trives to lay hold of those circumstances and 
motives which suit its own bias and confirm its 
natural disposition, whatever it may be, gentle 

* Fidel iter tlidicisse ingenuas artes 
EmoUit mores, nee sinit esse feros. 

The same maxim does not establish the purity of morals 
that infers their mildness. 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 101 

or rough, vulgar or refined, spirited or cowardly, 
open-hearted or cunning. The will is not 
blindly impelled by outward accidents, but 
selects the impressions by which it chooses to 
be governed, with great dexterity and persever- 
ance. Or the machine may be at the disposal 
of fortune : the man is still his own master. 
The soul, under the pressure of circumstances, 
does not lose its original spring, but, as soon as 
the pressure is removed, recoils with double 
violence to its first position. That which any 
one has been long learning unwillingly, he un- 
learns with proportionable eagerness and haste. 
Kings have been said to be incorrigible to expe- 
rience. The maxim might be extended, with- 
out injury, to the benefit of their subjects ; for 
every man is a king (with all the pride and 
obstinacy of one) in his own little world. It is 
only lucky that the rest of the species are not 
answerable for his caprices ! We laugh at the 
warnings and advice of others ; we resent the 
lessons of adversity, and lose no time in letting 
it appear that we have escaped from its impor- 
tunate hold. I do not think, with every assist- 
ance from reason and circumstances, that the 
slothful ever becomes active, the coward brave, 
the headstrong prudent, the fickle steady, the 
mean generous, the coarse delicate, the ill-tem- 



102 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

pered amiable, or the knave honest ; but that 
the restraint of necessity and appearances once 
taken away, they would relapse into their former 
and real character again : — Cucullus non facit 
monachum. Manners, situation^ example, fashion, 
have a prodigious influence on exterior deport- 
ment. But do they penetrate much deeper? 
The thief will not steal by day ; but his having 
this command over himself does not do away 
his character or calling. The priest cannot in- 
dulge in certain irregularities ; but unless his 
pulse beats temperately from the first, he will 
only be playing a part through life. Again, the 
soldier cannot shrink from his duty in a dastardly 
manner ; but if he has not naturally steady 
nerves and strong resolution, — except in the 
field of battle, he may be fearful as a woman, 
though covered w^ith scars and honour. The 
judge must be disinterested and above sus- 
picion ; yet should he have from nature an itch- 
ing palm, an eye servile and greedy of office, he 
will somehow contrive to indemnify his private 
conscience out of his public principle, and hus- 
band a reputation for legal integrity, as a stake 
to play the game of political profligacy with 
more advantage ! There is often a contradic- 
tion in character, which is composed of various 
and unequal parts j and hence there will arise 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 103 

an appearance of fickleness and inconsistency. 
A man may be slugglish by the father's side, 
and of a restless and uneasy temper by the mo- 
ther's ; and he may favour either of these inhe- 
rent dispositions according to circumstances. 
But he will not have changed his character, any 
more than a man who sometimes lives in one 
apartment of a house and then takes possession 
of another, according to whim or convenience, 
changes his habitation. The simply phlegmatic 
never turns to the truly '^ fiery quality." So, 
the really gay or trifling never become thought- 
ful and serious. The light-hearted wretch takes 
nothing to heart. He, on whom (from natural 
carelessness of disposition) " the shot of acci- 
dent and dart of chance" fall like drops of 
oil on water, so that he brushes them aside with 
heedless hand and smiling face, will never be 
roused from his volatile indifference to meet in- 
evitable calamities. He may try to laugh them 
off, but will not put himself to any inconve- 
nience to prevent them. I know a man that, if 
a tiger were to jump into his room, would only 
play off some joke, some *^ quip, or crank, or 
wanton wile " upon him. Mortifications and dis- 
appointments may break such a person's heart ; 
but they will be the death of him ere they will 
make him provident of the future, or willing to 



104 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

forego one idle gratification of the passing mo- 
ment for any consideration whatever. The dilato- 
ry man never becomes punctual. Resolution is of 
no avail ; for the very essence of the character 
consists in this, that the present impression is of 
more efficacy than any previous resolution. I 
have heard it said of a celebrated writer, that if 
he had to get a reprieve from the gallows for 
himself or a friend (with leave be it spoken), 
and was to be at a certain place at a given time 
for this purpose, he would be a quarter of an 
hour behind-hand. What is to be done in this 
case ? Can you talk or argue a man out of his 
humour ? You might as well attempt to talk or 
argue him out of a lethargy, or a fever. The 
disease is in the blood : you may see it (if you 
are a curious observer) meandering in his veins, 
and reposing on his eye-lids! Some of our 
foibles are laid in the constitution of our bodies; 
others in the structure of our minds, and 
both are irremediable. The vain man, who is 
full of himself, is never cured of his vanity, but 
looks for admiration to the last, with a restless, 
suppliant eye, in the midst of contumely and 
contempt ; the modest man never grows vain 
from flattery, or unexpected applause, for he 
sees himself in the diminished scale of other 
things. He will not "have his nothings mon- 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 105 

stered." He knows how much he himself wants, 
how much others have ; and till you can alter 
this conviction in him, or make him drunk 
by infusing some new poison, some celestial 
ichor into his veins, you cannot make a cox- 
comb of him. He is too well aware of the 
truth of what has been said, that "the wisest 
amongst us is a fool in some things, as the 
lowest amongst men has some just notions, and 
therein is as wise as Socrates ; so that every 
man resem.bles a statue made to stand against a 
wall, or in a niche ; on one side it is a Plato, an 
Apollo, a Demosthenes; on the other, it is a 
rough, unformed piece of stone *.'* Some per- 
sons of my acquaintance, who think themselves 
teres et rotundus, and armed at all points with 
perfections, would not be much inclined to give 
in to this sentiment, the modesty of which is 
only equalled by its sense and ingenuity. The 
man of sanguine temperament is seldom weaned 
from his castles in the air; nor can you, by 
virtue of any theory, convert the cold, careful 
calculator into a wild enthusiast. A self-tor- 
mentor is never satisfied, come what will. He 
always apprehends the worst, and is indefatiga- 
ble in conjuring up the apparition of danger. 

* Richardson's Works, On tlic Science of a Connoisseur, 
p. 212. 



106 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

He is uneasy at his own good fortune, as it 
takes from him his favourite topic of repining 
and complaint. Let him succeed to his heart's 
content in all that is reasonable or important, 
yet if there is any one thing (and that he is sure 
to find out) in which he does not get on^, this 
embitters all the rest. I know an instance. Per- 
haps it is myself. Again, a surly man, in spite 
of warning, neglects his own interest, and will 
do so, because he has more pleasure in dis- 
obliging you than in serving himself. '^ A 
friendly man will shew himself friendly," to the 
last ; for those who are said to have been spoiled 
by prosperity were never really good for any 
thing. A good-natured man never loses his 
native happiness of disposition : good temper is 
an estate for life ; and a man born with com- 
mon sense rarely turns out a very egregious 
fool. It is more common to see a fool become 
wise, that is, set up for wisdom, and be taken at 
his word by fools. We frequently judge of a 
man's intellectual pretensions by the number of 
books he writes ; of his eloquence by the num- 
ber of speeches he makes ; of his capacity for 
business, by the number of offices he holds. 
These are not true tests. Many a celebrated 
author is a known blockhead (between friends); 
and many a minister of state, whose gravity and 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 107 

self-importance pass with the world for depth of 
thought and weight of public care, is a laugh- 
ing-stock to his very servants and dependants *. 
The talents of some men, indeed, which might 
not otherwise have had a field to display them- 
selves, are called out by extraordinary situa- 
tions, and rise with the occasion ; but for all the 
routine and mechanical preparation, the pomp 
and parade and big looks of great statesmen, 
or what is called merely JiUing office, a very 
shallow capacity, with a certain immoveableness 
of countenance, is, I should suppose, sufficient, 
from what I have seen. Such political machines 
are not so good as the Mock-Duke in the 
Honey-Moon. As to genius and capacity for 
the works of art and science, all that a man 

* The reputation is not the man. Yet all true reputation 
begins and ends in the opinion of a man's intimate friends- 
He is what they think him, and in the last result will be 
thought so by others. Where there is no solid merit to bear 
the pressure of personal contact, fame is but a vapour raised 
by accident or prejudice, and will soon vanish like a vapour 
or a noisome stench. But he who appears to those about 
him what he would have the world think him, from whom 
every one that approaches him in whatever circumstances 
brings something away to confirm the loud rumour of the po- 
pular voice, is alone great in spite of fortune. The malice of 
friendship, the littleness of curiosity, is as severe a test as the 
impartiality and enlarged views of history. 



108 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

rccally excels in, is his own and incommunicable ; 
what he borrows from others he has in an infe- 
rior degree, and it is never what his fame rests 
on. Sir Joshua observes, that Raphael, in his 
latter pictures, shewed that he had learnt in 
some measure the colouring of Titian. If he had 
learnt it quite, the merit would still have been 
Titian's ; but he did not learn it, and never 
would. But his expression (his glory and his 
excellence) was what he had within himself, 
first and last ; and this it was that seated him on 
the pinnacle of fame, a pre-eminence that no 
artist, without an equal warrant from nature 
and genius, will ever deprive him of. With 
respect to indications of early genius for par- 
ticular things, I will just mention, that I my- 
self know an instance of a little boy, who could 
catch the hardest tunes, when between two and 
three years old, without any assistance but hear- 
ing them played on a hand-organ in the street ; 
and who followed the exquisite pieces of Mozart, 
played to him for the first time, so as to fall in 
like an echo at the close. Was this accident, 
or education, or natural aptitude ? I think the 
last. All the presumptions are for it, and there 
are none against it. 

In fine, do we not see how hard certain early 
impressions, or prejudices acquired later, are to 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 109 

overcome? Do we not say, habit is a second 
nature ? And shall we not allow the force of 
nature itself? If the real disposition is con- 
cealed for a time and tampered with, how 
readily it breaks out with the first excuse or op- 
portunity ! How soon does the drunkard forget 
his resolution and constrained sobriety, at sight 
of the foaming tankard and blazing hearth ! 
Does not the passion for gaming, in which there 
had been an involuntary pause, return like a 
madness all at once ? It would be needless to 
offer instances of so obvious a truth. But if 
this superinduced nature is not to be got the 
better of by reason or prudence, who shall pre- 
tend to set aside the original one by prescrip- 
tion and management ? Thus, if we turn to the 
characters of women, we find that the shrew, the 
jilt, the coquette, the wanton, the intriguer, the 
liar, continue all their lives the same. Meet 
them after the lapse of a quarter or half a cen- 
tury, and they are still infallibly at their old 
work. No rebuke from experience, no lessons 
of misfortune, make the least impression on 
them. On they go ; and, in fact, they can go 
on in no other way. They try other things^ but 
it will not do. They are like fish out of water, 
except in the element of their favourite vices. 
They might as well not be, as cease to be what 
they are by nature and custom. " Can the 



110 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his 
spots ?" Neither do these wretched persons find 
any satisfaction or consciousness of their power, 
but in being a plague and a torment to themselves 
and every one else as long as they can. A good 
sort of woman is a character more rare than any 
of these, but it is equally durable. Look at the 
head of Hogarth's Idle Apprentice in the boat, 
holding up his fingers as horns at Cuckold's 
Point, and ask what penitentiary, what prison- 
discipline, would change the form of his fore- 
head, " villainous low," or the conceptions lurk- 
ing within it ? Nothing : — no mother's fearful 
warnings, — nor the formidable precautions of 
that wiser and more loving mother, his country ! 
That fellow is still to be met with somewhere in 
our time. Is he a spy, a jack-ketch, or an un- 
derling of office ? In truth, almost all the cha. 
racters in Hogarth are of the class of incor- 
rigibles ; so that I often wonder what has be- 
come of some of them. Have the worst of them 
been cleared out, like the breed of noxious ani- 
mals ? Or have they been swept away, like lo- 
custs, in the whirlwind of the French Revolu- 
tion ? Or has Mr. Bentham put them into his 
Panopticon ; from which they have come out, 
so that nobody knows them, like the chimney- 
sweeper boy at Sadler's Wells, that was thrown 
into a cauldron and came out a little dapper vo- 



ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. Ill 

lunteer ? I will not deny that some of them 
may, like Chaucer's characters, have been mo- 
dernised a Uttle ; but I think I could re-trans- 
late a few of them into their mother-tongue, the 
original honest hlack-letter. We may refine, 
we may disguise, we may equivocate, we may 
compound for our vices, without getting rid of 
them ; as we change our liquors, but do not 
leave off drinking. We may, in this respect, 
look forward to a decent and moderate, rather 
than a thorough and radical reform. Or (with- 
out going deep into the political question) I 
conceive we may improve the mechanism, if not 
the texture of society ; that is, we may improve 
the physical circumstances of individuals and 
their general relations to the state, tliough the 
internal character, like the grain in wood, or the 
sap in trees, that still rises, bend them how you 
will, may remain nearly the same. The clay 
that the potter uses may be of the same quality, 
coarse or fine in itself, though he may mould it 
into vessels of very different shape or beauty. 
Who shall alter the stamina of national character 
by any systematic process ? Who shall make 
the French respectable, or the English amiable? 
Yet the Author of the year 2500* has done it ! 
Suppose public spirit to become the general 

* Mercier. 



112 ON PERSONAL CHARACTER. 

principle of action in the community — iiow 
would it shew itself? Would it not then be- 
come the fashion, like loyalty, and have its apes 
and parrots, like loyalty? The man of principle 
would no longer be distinguished from the 
crowd, the servum pecus imitatorum. There is 
a cant of democracy as well as of aristocracy ; 
and we have seen both triumphant in our day. 
The Jacobin of 1794< was the Anti-Jacobin of 
1814<. The loudest chaunters of the Paeans of 
liberty were the loudest applauders of the re- 
stored doctrine of divine right. They drifted 
with the stream, they sailed before the breeze in 
either case. The politician was changed j the man 
was the same, the very same ! — But enough of this. 
I do not know any moral to be deduced from 
this view of the subject but one, namely, that 
we should mind our own business, cultivate our 
good qualities, if we have any, and irritate our- 
selves less about the absurdities of other people, 
which neither we nor they can help. I grant 
there is something in what I have said, which 
might be made to glance towards the doctrines 
of original sin, grace, election, reprobation, or 
the Gnostic principle that acts did not deter- 
mine the virtue or vice of the character ; and in 
those doctrines, so far as they are deducible 
from what I have said, I agree — but always 
with a salvo. 



ESSAY V. 



ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 



Secovd Series, vol. II. 



ESSAY V. 

ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 



People of sense (as they are called) give 
themselves great and unwarrantable airs over 
the rest of the world. If we examine the his- 
tory of mankind, we shall find that the greatest 
absurdities have been most strenuously main- 
tained by these very persons, who give them- 
selves out as wiser than every body else. The 
fictions of law, the quibbles of" school-divinity, 
the chicanery of politics, the mysteries of the 
Cabbala, the doctrine of Divine Right, and the 
secret of the philosopher's stone, — all the grave 
impostures that have been acted in the world, 
have been the contrivance of those who set up 
for oracles to their neighbours. The learned 
professions alone have propagated and lent 
their countenance to as many perverse contra- 
dictions and idle fallacies as have puzzled the 
wits, and set the credulous, thoughtless, unpre- 
tending part of mankind together by the ears, 
ever since the distinction between learning and 
ignorance subsisted. It is the part of deep in- 

I 2 



lis ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 

roundly assserted, that " Hell was paved with 
infants' skulls." This roused the indignation 
of the poor women of Kidderminster so much, 
that they were inclined to pelt their preacher 
as he passed along the streets. His zeal, how- 
ever, was as great as theirs, and his learning 
and his eloquence greater ; and he poured out 
such torrents of texts upon them, and such 
authorities from grave councils and pious di- 
vines, that the poor women were defeated, and 
forced with tears in their eyes, to surrender 
their natural feelings and unenlightened con- 
victions to the proofs from reason and Scrip- 
ture, which they did not know how to answer. 
Yet these untutored, unsophisticated dictates of 
nature and instinctive affection have, in their 
turn, triumphed over all the pride of casuistry, 
and merciless bigotry of Calvinism ! We hear 
it said, that the Inquisition would not have been 
lately restored in Spain, but for the infatuation 
and prejudices of the populace. That is, after 
power and priestcraft have been instilling the 
poison of superstition and cruelty into the 
minds of the people for centuries together, 
hood-winking their understandings, and harden- 
ing every feeling of the heart, it is made a taunt 
and a triumph over this very people (so long 
the creatures of the govennnent, carefully 



ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 119 

moulded by them, like clay in the potter's 
hands, into vessels, not of honour, but of dis- 
honour) that their prejudices and misguided 
zeal are the only obstacles that stand in the way 
of the adoption of more liberal and humane prin- 
ciples. The engines and establishments of ty- 
ranny, however, are the work of cool, plotting, 
specious heads, and not the spontaneous product 
of the levity and rashness of the multitude. It is 
a work of time to reconcile them to such abomi- 
nable and revolting abuses of power and autho- 
rity, as it is a work of time to wean them from 
their monstrous infatuation *. We may trace a 
speculative absurdity or practical enormity of this 
kind into its tenth or fifteenth century, supported 
story above story, gloss upon gloss, till it mocks 
at Heaven, and tramples upon earth, propped up 
on decrees and councils and synods, and ap- 
peals to popes and cardinals and fathers of the 
church (all grave, reverend men!) with the 
regular clergy and people at their side battling 
for it, and others below (schismatics and heretics) 

* It appears, notwithstaiuliiig, that this sophistical apology 
for the restoration of the Spanish Inquisition, with the re- 
version of sovereign power into kingly hands, was false and 
spurious. The power has once more reverted into the 
hands of an abused people, and the Inquisition has been abo- 
lished. — Since this was written, there has been another turn 
of the screws, and But no more on that head. 



190 ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 

oppugning it ; till in the din and commotion 
and collision of dry rubs and hard blows, it loses 
ground, as it rose, century by century ; is taken 
to pieces by timid friends and determined foes ; 
totters and falls, and not a fragment of it is left 
upon another. A text of Scripture, or a passage 
in ecclesiastical history, is for one whole century 
" torn to tatters, to very rags," and wrangled 
and fought for, as maintaining the doctrine of 
the true and Catholic church ; in the next cen- 
tury after that, the whole body of the Reformed 
clergy, Lutherans, Calvinists, Arminians, get 
hold of it, wrest it out of the hands of their 
adversaries, and twist and torture it in a thou- 
sand different ways, to overturn the abominations 
of Anti-Christ ; in the third a great cabal, a cla- 
mour, a noise like the confusion of Babel, jea- 
lousies, feuds, heart-burnings, wars in countries, 
divisions in families, schisms in the church 
arise, because this text has been thought to 
favour a lax interpretation of an article of faitli, 
necessarv to salvation : and in the fourth cen- 
tury from the time the question began to be 
agitated with so much heat and fury, it is dis- 
covered that no such text existed in the genuine 
copies. Yet all and each of these. Popes, coun- 
cils, fathers of the church, reformed leaders, 
Lutherans, Calvinists, Independents, Presbyte- 



ON PEOPLE Ol SENSE. 12^1 

riaii, sects, schisms, clergy, people, all believe 
that their own interpretation is the true sense ; 
that, compared with this fabricated and spuri- 
our faith of theirs, " the pillar'd firmament is 
rottenness, and earth's base built on stubble ; " 
and are so far from being disposed to treat the 
matter lightly, or to suppose it possible that 
they do not proceed on solid and indubitable 
grounds in every contradiction they run into, 
that they would hand over to the civil power, 
to be consigned to a prison, the galleys, or the 
stake (as it happened),any one who demurred for 
a single instant to their being people of sense, 
gravity, and wisdom. Sense (that is, that sort 
of sense which consists in pretension and a 
claim to superiority) is shewn, not in things 
that are plain and clear, but in deciding upon 
doubts and difficulties ; the greater the doubt, 
therefore, the greater must be the dogmatism 
and the consequential airs of those who profess 
to settle points beyond the reach of the vulgar; 
nay, to increase the authority of such persons, 
the utmost stress must be laid on the most fri- 
volous as well as ticklish questions, and the 
most unconscionable absurdities have always 
had the stoutest sticklers, and the most nume- 
rous victims. The affectation of sense so far. 



122 ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 

then, has given birth to more folly and done 
more mischief than any one thing else. 

Hence we may, perhaps, be able to assign one 
reason, why those arts which do not undertake 
to unfold mysteries and inculcate dogmas, ge- 
nerally shine out at first with full lustre, because 
they start from the 'vantage ground of nature, 
and are not buried under the dust and rubbish 
of ages of perverse prejudice. Biblical critics 
were a long time at work to strip Popery of her 
finery, muffled up as she was in the formal dis- 
guises of interest, pride, and bigotry. It was 
Jike peeling off the coats of an onion, which is 
a work of time and patience. Titian, on the 
other hand, (which our protestant painters are 
sometimes amazed at) saw the colour of the 
skin at once, without any intellectual film spread 
over it ; Raphael painted the actions and pas- 
sions of men, without any indirect process, as 
he found them. The fine arts, such as paint- 
ing, which reveals the flice of nature, and poe- 
try, which paints the heart oi" man, are true and 
unsophisticated, because they are conversant 
with real objects, and because they are culti- 
vated for amusement without any further view 
or inference ; and please by the truth of imita- 
tion only. Yet your people of sense ^ in all ages, 
have made a point of scouting the arts of paint- 



ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 1^3 

ing, music, and poetry, as frivolous, effeminate, 
and worthless, as appealing to sentiment and 
fancy alone, and involving no useful theory or 
principle, because they afforded them no scope, 
no opportunity for darkening knowledge, and 
setting up their own blindness and frailty as 
the measure of abstract truth, and the standard of 
universal propriety. Poetry acts by sympathy with 
nature, that is, with the natural impulses, cus- 
toms, and imaginations of men, and is, on that 
account, always popular, delightful, and at the 
same time instructive. It is nature moralizing 
and idealizing for us ; inasmuch as, by shewing 
us things as they are, it implicitly teaches us 
what they ought to be ; and the grosser feel- 
ings, by passing through the strainers of this 
imaginary, wide-extended experience, acquire 
an involuntary tendency to higher objects. 
Shakcspear was, in this sense, not only one of 
the greatest poets, but one of the greatest moral- 
ists that we have. Those who read him are the 
happier, better, and wiser for it. No one (that 
I know of) is the happier, better, or wiser, for 
reading Mr. Shelley's Prometheus Unbound *. 
One thing is that nobody reads it. And the 
reason for one or both is the same, that he is 
not a poet, but a sophist, a theorist, a contro- 

* Tin's was written in Mr. Shelley's life-time. 



124 ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 

versial writer in verse. He gives us, for repre- 
sentations of things, rhapsodies of words. He 
does not lend the colours of imagination and 
the ornaments of style to the objects of nature, 
but paints gaudy, flimsy, allegorical pictures on 
gauze, on the cobwebs of his own brain, '* Gor- 
gons and Hydras, and Chimeras dire." He 
assumes certain doubtful speculative notions, 
and proceeds to prove their truth by describing 
them in detail as matters of fact. This mixture 
of fanatic zeal with poetical licentiousness is not 
quite the thing. The poet describes what he 
pleases as he pleases- if he is not tied down to cer- 
taingiven principles, if he is notto plead prejudice 
and oninion as his warrant or excuse, we are left 
out at sea, at the mercy of every reckless fancy- 
monger, who may be tempted to erect an ipse 
dixit of his own, by the help of a few idle flou- 
rishes and extravagant epithets, into an exclu- 
sive system of morals and philosophy. The 
poet describes vividly and individually, so that 
any general results from what he writes must 
be from the aggregate of well-founded particu- 
lars : to embody an abstract theory, as if it were 
a given part of actual nature, is an impertinence 
and indecorum. The charm of poetry, how- 
ever, depends on the union of fancy with reality, 
on its finding a tally in the human breast; and 



ON PEOPI.E OF SENSE. 125 

without this, all its tumid efforts will be less 
pernicious than vain and abortive. Plato 
shewed himself to be a person of frigid appre- 
hension, " with eye severe and beard of formal 
cut," when he banished the poets from his 
Republic, as corrupters of morals, because they 
described the various passions and affections of 
the mind. This did not suit with that Procrus- 
tes' bed of criticism on which he wished to 
stretch and lop them ; but Homer's imitations 
of nature have been more popular than Plato's 
inversions of her ; and his morality is at least as 
sound. The errors of nature are accidental and 
pardonable ; those of science are systematic and 
incorrigible. The understanding, or reasoning 
faculty presumes too much over her younger 
sisters ; and yet plays as fantastic tricks as any 
of them, only with more solemnity, which en- 
hances the evil. We have partly seen what 
right she has, on the score of past behaviour, to 
set vip for a strict and unerring guide. The 
haughtiness of her pretensions at present, " full 
of wise saws and modern instances," is not 
the most unequivocal pledge of her abandon- 
ment of her old errors. To bring down this 
account then from the ancients to the mo^derns. 
People of sense, the self-conceited wise, are at 
all times at issue with common sense and feel- 



1^6 ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 

ing. They formerly dogmatised on speculative 
matters, out of the reach of common apprehen- 
sion ; they now dogmatise with the same head- 
strong self-sufficiency on practical questions, 
more within the province of actual inquiry and 
observation. In this new and more circum- 
scribed career, they set out with exploding the 
sense of all those who have gone before them, as 
of too liffht and fanciful a texture. Thev make 
a clear stage of all former opinions — get rid of 
the mixed modes of prejudice, authority, sugges- 
tion — and begin de novo, with reason for their 
rule, certainty for their guide, and the greatest 
possible good as a sine qua nnn. The modern 
Panoptic andChreistomathic School of reformers 
and reconstructors of society propose to do it 
upon entirely mechanical and scientific prin- 
ciples. Nothing short of that will satisfy their scru- 
pulous pretensions to wisdom and gravity. They 
proceed by the rule and compass, by logical dia- 
grams, and with none but demonstrable conclu- 
sions, and leave all the taste, fancy, and sentiment 
of the thing to the admirers of Mr. Burke's Re- 
flections on the French Revolution. That work is 
to them a very flimsy and superficial performance, 
because it is rhetorical and figurative, and they 
judge of solidity by barrenness, of depth by dry- 
ness. Till they see a little farther into it, they 



ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 197 

will not be able to answer it, or counteract its 
influence ; and yet that were a task of some im- 
portance to atchieve. They say that the pro- 
portions are false, because the colouring is fine, 
which is bad logic. If they do not like a painted 
statue, a florid argument, that is a matter of 
taste and not of reasoning. Some may conceive 
that the gold, the sterling bullion of thought, is 
the better for being wrought into rich and ele- 
gant figures ; they are the only people who con- 
tend that it is the worse on that account. These 
crude projectors give, in their new plan and ele- 
vation of society, neither " princes' palaces nor 
poor men's cottages," but a sort of log-houses 
and gable-ends, in which the solid contents and 
square dimensions are to be ascertained and par- 
celled out to a nicety ; they employ the carpen- 
ter, joiner, and bricklayer, but will have nothing 
to say to the plasterer, painter, paper-hanger, 
upholsterer, carver and gilder, &c.; so that I am 
afraid, in this fastidious and luxurious age, they 
will hardly find tenants for their bare walls and 
skeletons of houses, run up in haste and by the 
job. Their system \^^2CCit'& house-warming -, it is 
destitute of comfort as of outside shew ; it has 
nothing to recommend it but its poverty and na- 
kedness. They profess to set aside and reject 
all compromise with the prejudices of authority, 



128 ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 

the allurements of sense, the customs of the 
world, and the instincts of nature. They will 
make a man with a quadrant, as the tailors at 
Laputa made a suit of clothes. They put the 
mind into a machine, as the potter puts a lump 
of clay into a mould, and out it comes in any 
clumsy or disagreeable shape that they would 
have it. They hate all grace, ornament, ele- 
gance. They are addicted to abstruse science, 
but sworn enemies to the fine arts. They are a 
kind of puritans in morals. Do you suppose 
that the race of the Iconoclasts is dead with the 
dispute in Laud's time about image-worship? We 
have just the same set of moon-eyed philosophers 
in our days, who cannot bear to be dazzled with 
the sun of beauty. They are only half-alive. 
They can distinguish the hard edges and deter- 
minate outline of things ; but are alike insensi- 
ble to the stronger impulses of passion, to the 
finer essences of thought. Their intellectual 
food does not assimilate with the juices of the 
mind, or turn to subtle spirit, but lies a crude, 
undigested heap of material substance, begetting 
only the windy impertinence of words. They 
are acquainted with the form, not the power of 
truth; they insist on what is necessary, and 
never arrive at what is desirable. They refer 
every thing to utility, and yet banivsh pleasure 



ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 129 

with stoic pride and cynic slovenliness. They 
talk big of increasing the sum of human happi- 
ness, and yet in the mighty grasp and extension 
of their views, leave hardly any one source from 
which the smallest ray of satisfaction can be de- 
rived. They have an instinctive aversion to 
plays, novels, amusements of every kind ; and 
this not so much from affectation or want of 
knowledge, as from sheer incapacity and want 
of taste. Shew one of these men of narrow 
comprehension a beautiful prospect, and he won- 
ders you can take delight in what is of no use : 
you would hardly suppose that this very person 
had written a book, and was perhaps at the mo- 
ment holding an argument, to prove that nothing 
is useful but what pleases. Speak of Shakespear, 
and another of the same automatic school will 
tell you he has read him, but could find nothing 
in him. Point to Hogarth, -and they do confess 
there is something in his prints, that, by contrast, 
throws a pleasing light on their Utopian schemes, 
and the future progress of society. One of these 
pseudo-philosophers would think it a disparage- 
ment to compare him to Aristotle : he fancies 
himself as great a man as Aristotle was in his 
day, and that the world is much wiser now than 
it was in the time of Aristotle. He would be 
glad to live the ten remaining years of his life, 

Second Series, vol. ii. K 



130 ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 

a year at a time at the end of the next ten cen- 
turies, to see the effect of his writings on social 
institutions, though posterity will know no more 
than his contemporaries that so great a man ever 
existed. So little does he know of himself or the 
world! Persons of his class, indeed, cautiously 
shut themselves up from society, and take no 
more notice of men than of animals j and from 
their ignorance of what mankind are, can tell 
exactly what they will be. " What can we rea- 
son but from what we know ?" — is not their 
maxim. Reason with them is a mathematical 
force that acts with most certainty in the ab- 
sence of experience, in the vacuum of pure spe- 
culation. These secure alarmists and dreaming 
guardians of the state are like superannuated 
watchmen enclosed in a sentry-box, that never 
hear " when thieves break through and steal.'* 
They put an oil-skin over their heads, that the 
dust raised by the passions and interests of the 
countless, ever-moving multitude, may not annoy 
or disturb the clearness of their vision. They 
build a Penitentiary, and are satisfied that Dyot- 
street, Bloomsbury-square, will no longer send 
forth its hordes of young delinquents, "an aerie 
of children," the embryo performers on locks and 
pockets for the next generation. They put men 
into a Panopticon, like a glass-hive, to carry on 



ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. ISI 

all sorts of handicrafts ('* So work the ho- 
ney-bees" — ) under the omnipresent e3^e of the 
inventor, and want and idleness are banished 
from the world. They propose to erect a Chres- 
tomathic school, by cutting down some fine old 
trees on the classic ground where Milton 
thought and wrote, to introduce a rabble of chil- 
dren, who for the Greek and Latin languages, 
poetry, and history, that fine pabulum of useful 
enthusiasm, that breath of immortality infused 
into our youthful blood, that balm and cordial of 
our future years, are to be drugged with chemistry 
and apothecaries' receipts, are to be taught to do 
every thing, and to see and feel nothing ; — that 
the grubbing up of elegant arts and polite litera- 
ture may be followed by the systematic intro- 
duction of accomplished barbarism and mecha- 
nical quackery. Such enlightened geniuses 
would pull down Stonehenge to build pig-sties, 
and would convert Westminster Abbey into a 
central House of Correction. It would be in 
vain to point to the arched windows, 

" Shedding a dim, religious light," 

to touch the deep, solemn organ-stop in their 
ears, to turn to the statue of Newton, to gaze 
upon the sculptured marble on the walls, to call 
back the hopes and fears that lie buried there, to 

k2 



132 ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 

cast a wistful look at Poet's Corner (they scorn 
the Muse ! — all this would not stand one moment 
in the way of any of the schemes of these retro- 
grade reformers; who, instead of being legislators 
for the world, and stewards to the intellectual in- 
heritance of nations, are hardly fit to be parish- 
beadles, or pettifogging attorneys to a litigated 
estate ! " Their speech bewrayeth them." The 
leader of this class of reasoners does not write to 
be understood, because he would make fewer 
converts, if he did. The language he adopts is 
his own — a word to the wise — a technical and 
conventional jargon, unintelligible to others, and 
conveying no idea to himself in common with 
the rest of mankind, purposely cut off from hu- 
man sympathy and ordinary apprehension. Mr. 
Bentham's writings require to be translated into 
a foreign tongue or his own, before they can be 
read at all, except by the adepts. This is not a 
very fair or very wise proceeding. No man who 
invents words arbitrarily, can be sure that he 
uses them conscientiously. There is no check 
upon him in the popular criticism exercised by 
the mass of readers — there is no clue to pro- 
priety in the habitual associations of his own 
mind. He who pretends to fit words to things, 
will much oftener accommodate things to words, 
to answer a theory. Words are a measure of 



ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 133 

truth. They ascertani (intuitively) the degrees, 
inflections, and powers of things in a wonderful 
manner ; and he who voluntarily deprives him- 
self of their assistance, does not go the way to 
arrive at any very nice or sure results. Lan- 
guage is the medium of our communication with 
the thoughts of others. But whoever becomes 
wise, becomes wise by sympathy ; whoever is 
powerful, becomes so by making others sympa- 
thize with him. To think justly, we must un- 
derstand what others mean : to know the value 
of our tlioughts, we must try their effect on 
other minds. There is this privilege in the use 
of a conventional style, as there was in that of 
the learned languages — a man may be as absurd 
as he pleases without being ridiculous. His 
folly and his wisdom are alike a secret to the ge- 
nerality. If it were possible to contrive a per- 
fect language, consistent with itself, and an- 
swering to the complexity of human affairs, 
there would be some excuse for the attempt ; 
but he who knows any thing of the nature of 
language, or of the complexity of human thought, 
knows that this is impossible. What is gained 
in formality, is more than lost in force, ease, and 
perspicuity. Mr. Bentham's language, in short, 
is like his reasoning, a logical apparatus, which 
will work infallibly and perform wonders, taking 



134* ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 

it for granted that his principles and definitions 
are universally true and intelligible ; but as this 
is not exactly the case, neither the one nor the 
other is of much use or authority. Thus, the 
maxim that " mankind act from calculation" 
may be, in ,a general sense, true : but the mo- 
ment you apply this maxim to subject all their 
actions systematically and demonstrably to rea- 
son, and to exclude passion both in common and 
in extreme cases, you give it a sense in which 
the principle is false, and in which all the infer- 
ences built upon it (many and might}^, no doubt,) 
fall to the ground. " Madmen reason." But 
in what proportion does this hold good ? How 
far does reason guide them, or their madness 
err ? There is a difference between reason and 
madness in this respect ; but according to Mr. 
Bentham, there can be none ; for all men act 
from calculation, and equally so. " So runs 
the bond." Passion is liable to be restrained by 
reason, as drunkenness may be changed to so- 
briety by some strong motive: but passion is not 
reason, i, e» does not act by the same rule or 
law ; and therefore all that follows is, that men 
act (according to the common-sense of the 
thing) either from passion or reason, from im- 
pulse or calculation, more or less, as circum- 
stances lead. But no sweeping, metaphysical 



ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 135 

conclusion can be drawn from hence, as if rea- 
son were absolute, and passion a mere nonentity 
in the government of the world. People in ge- 
neral, or writers speculating on human actions, 
form wrong judgments concerning them, be- 
cause they decide coolly, and at a distance, on 
what is done in heat and on the spur of the oc- 
casion. Man is not a machine ; nor is he to be 
measured by mechanical rules. The decisions 
of abstract reason would apply to what men 
might do if all men were philosophers : but if 
all men were philosophers, there would be no 
need of systems of philosophy ! 

The race of alchemists and visionaries is not 
yet extinct ; and, what is remarkable, we find 
them existing in the shape of deep logicians and 
enlightened legislators. They have got a men- 
struum for dissolving the lead and copper of 
society, and turning it to pure gold, as the 
adepts of old had a trick for finding the philoso- 
pher's stone. The author of St. Leon has re- 
preseHted his hero as possessed of the elixir vitoe 
and aurum potabile. The author of the Politi- 
cal Justice has adopted one half of this romantic 
fiction as a serious hypothesis, and maintains the 
natural immortality of man, without a figure. 
The truth is, that persons of the most precise 
and formal understandings are persons of the 



136 ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 

loosest and most extravagant imaginations. Take 
from them their norma loquendi, their literal 
clue, and there is no absurdity into which they 
will not fall with pleasure. They have no means 
or principle of judging of that which does not ad- 
mit of absolute proof; and between this and the 
idlest fiction, they perceive no medium : — as those 
artists who take likenesses with a machine, are 
quite thrown out in their calculations when they 
have to rely on the eye or hand alone. People 
who are accustomed to trust to their imagina- 
tions or feelings, know how far to go, and how 
to keep within certain limits : those who seldom 
exert these faculties are all abroad, in a wide sea 
of speculation without rudder or compass, the 
instant they leave the shore of matter-of-fact or 
dry reasoning, and never stop short of the last 
absurdity. They go all lengths, or none. They 
laugh at poets, and are themselves lunatics. 
They are the dupes of all sorts of projectors 
and impostors. Being of a busy, meddlesome 
turn, they are for reducing whatever comes into 
their heads (and cannot be demonstrated by 
mood and figure to amount to a contradiction in 
terms) to practice. What they would scout in 
a fiction, they would set about realizing in sober 
sadness, and melt their fortunes in compassing 



ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 137 

what others consider as the amusement of an 
idle hour. Astolpho's voyage to the moon in 
Ariosto, they criticize sharply as a quaint and 
ridiculous burlesque : but if any one had the 
face seriously to undertake such a thing, they 
would immediately patronize it, and defy any 
one to prove by a logical dilemma that the 
attempt was physically impossible. So, again, 
we find that painters and engravers, whose at- 
tention is confined and rivetted to a minute in- 
vestigation of actual objects, or of visible lines 
and surfaces, are apt to fly out into all the extra- 
vagance and rhapsodies of the most unbridled fa- 
naticism. Several of the most eminent are at 
this moment Swedenborgians, animal magnetists, 
kc. The mind (as it should seem), too long tied 
down to the evidence of sense and a number of 
trifling particulars, is wearied of the bondage, 
revolts at it, and instinctively takes refuge in 
the wildest schemes and most magnificent con- 
tradictions of an unlimited faith. Poets, on the 
contrary, who are continually throwing off the 
superfluities of feeling or fancy in little sportive 
sallies and short excursions with the Muse, do 
not find the want of any greater or more pain- 
ful effort of thought ; leave the ascent of the 
" highest Heaven of Invention" as a holiday 



138 ON PEOPLE OF SENSE. 

task to persons of more mechanical habits and 
turn of mind ; and the characters of poet and 
sceptic are now often united in the same indivi- 
dual, as those of poet and prophet were sup- 
posed to be of old. 



ESSAY VI. 



ON ANTIQUITY, 



ESSAY VI. 
ON ANTIQUITY. 



There is no such thing as Antiquity in the 
ordinary acceptation we affix to the term. 
Whatever is or has been, while it is passing, 
must be modern. The early ages may have 
been barbarous in themselves ; but they have 
become ancient with the slow and silent lapse 
of successive generations. The " olden times" 
are only such in reference to us. The past is 
rendered strange, mysterious, visionary, awful^ 
from the great gap in time that parts us from 
it, and the long perspective of waning years. 
Things gone by and almost forgotten, look dim 
and dull, uncouth and quaint, from our igno- 
rance of them, and the mutability of customs. 
But in their day — they were fresh, unimpaired, 
in full vigour, familiar, and glossy. The Chil- 
dren in the Wood, and Percy's Relics, were 
once recent productions ; and Auld Robin 
Gray was, in his time, a very common-place 



142 ON ANTiaUITY. 

old fellow ! The wars of York and Lancaster, 
while they lasted, were *' lively, audible, and full 
of vent," as fresh and lusty as the white and red 
roses that distinguished their different banners, 
though they have since become a bye-word and 
a solecism in history. 

The sun shone in Julius Caesar's time just as 
it does now. On the road-side between Win- 
chester and Salisbury are some remains of old 
Roman encampments, with their double lines 
of circumvallation (now turned into pasturage 
for sheep), which answer exactly to the descrip- 
tions of this kind in Caesar's Commentaries. In 
a dull and cloudy atmosphere, I can conceive 
that this is the identical spot, that the first Caesar 
trod, — and figure to myself the deHberate move- 
ments and scarce perceptible march of close- 
embodied legions. But if the sun breaks out, 
making its way though dazzling, fleecy clouds 
lights up the blue serene, and gilds the sombre 
earth, I can no long persuade myself that it 
is the same scene as formerly, or transfer the 
actual image before me so far back. The 
brightness of nature is not easily reduced to the 
low, twilight tone of history ; and the impres- 
sions of sense defeat and dissipate the faint 
traces of learning and tradition. It is only by 
an effort of reason, to which fancv is averse. 



ON ANTiaUITY. 14S 

that I bring myself to believe that the sun shone 
as bright, that the sky was as blue, and the 
earth as green, two thousand years ago as it is at 
present. How ridiculous this seems j yet so 
it is ! 

The darh or middle ages, when every thing 
was hid in the fog and haze of confusion and 
ignorance, seem, to the same involuntary kind 
of prejudice, older and farther off, and more 
inaccessible to the imagination, than the brilli- 
ant and well-defined periods of Greece and 
Rome. A Gothic ruin appears buried in a 
greater depth of obscurity, to be weighed down 
and rendered venerable with the hoar of more 
distant ages, to have been longer mouldering 
into neglect and oblivion, to be a record and 
memento of events more wild and alien to our 
own times, than a Grecian temple.* Amadis de 
Gaul, and the seven Champions of Christen- 

* " The Gothic architecture, though not so ancient as the 
Grecian, is more so to our imagination, with which the 
artist is more concerned than with absolute truth." — Sir 
Joshua Reynolds s Discourses, vol. ii. p. 13S. 

Till I met with this remark in so circumspect and guarded 
a writer as Sir Joshua, I was afraid of being charged with ex- 
travagance in some of the above assertions. Pereant isti 
qui ante nos nostra dixerunt. It is thus that our favourite spe- 
culations are often accounted paradoxes by the ignorant, — 
while by the learned reader they are set down as plagiarisms. 



144 ON ANTIGIUITY. 

dom, with me (honestly speaking) rank as con^ 
temporaries with Theseus, Pirithous, and the 
heroes of the fabulous ages. My imagination 
will stretch no farther back into the commence- 
ment of time than the first traces and rude 
dawn of civilization and mighty enterprise, in 
either case ; and in attempting to force it up- 
wards by the scale of chronology, it only recoils 
upon itself, and dwindles from a lofty survey of 
" the dark rearward and abyss of time," into a 
poor and puny calculation of insignificant cy- 
phers. In like manner, I cannot go back to 
any time more remote and dreary than that re- 
corded in Stow's and Holingshed's Chronicles, 
unless I turn to " the wars of old Assaracus 
and Inachus divine," and the gorgeous events 
of Eastern history, where the distance of place 
may be said to add to the length of time and 
weight of thought. That is old (in sentiment 
and poetry) whicli is decayed, shadowy, imper- 
fect, out of date, and changed from what it 
was. That of which we have a distinct idea, 
which comes before us entire and made out in all 
its parts, will have a novel appearance, however 
old in reality, — and cannot be impressed with 
the romantic and superstitious character of an- 
tiquity. Those times that we can parallel with 
our own in civilization and knowledge, seem 



ON ANTIGIUITY. 145 

advanced into the same line with our own in 
the order of progression. The perfection of 
art does not look like the infancy of things. 
Or those times are prominent, and, as it were, 
confront the present age, that are raised high 
in the scale of polished sosiety, — and the tro- 
phies of which stand out above the low, ob- 
scure, grovelling level of barbarism and rusticity. 
Thus, Rome and Athens were two cities set on 
a hill, that could not be hid, and that every 
where meet the retrospective eye of history. 
It is not the full-grown, articulated, thoroughly 
accomplished periods of the world, that we re- 
gard with the pity or reverence due to age ; so 
much as those imperfect, unformed, uncertain 
periods, which seem to totter on the verge of 
non-existence, to shrink from the grasp of our 
feeble imaginations, as they crawl out of, or retire 
into, the womb of time, and of which our ut- 
most assurance is to doubt whether they ever 
were or not ! 

To give some other instances of this feeling, 
taken at random : Whittington and his Cat, 
the first and favourite studies of my childhood, 
are, to my way of thinking, as old and reverend 
parsonages as any recorded in more autlientic 
history. It must have been long before the 
invention of triple bob-majors, that Bow-bells 

Second Series, vol. ii. Ij 



146 



ON ANTiaUITY. 



rung out their welcome never-to-be-forgotten 
peal, hailing him Thrice Lord Mayor of Lon- 
don. Does not all we know relating to the site 
of old London-wall, and the first stones that 
were laid of this mighty metropolis, seem of a 
far older date (hid in the lap of " chaos and old 
night") than the splendid and imposing details 
of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire ? — 
Again, the early Italian pictures of Cimabue, 
Giotto, and Ghirlandaio are covered with the 
marks of unquestionable antiquity ; while the 
Greek statues, done a thousand years before 
them, shine in glossy, undiminished splendour, 
and flourish in immortal youth and beauty. The 
latter Grecian Gods, as we find them there re- 
presented, are to all appearance a race of mo- 
dern fine gentlemen, who led the life of honour 
with their favourite mistresses of mortal or im- 
mortal mould, — were gallant, graceful, well- 
dressed, and well-spoken ; whereas the Gothic 
deities long after, carved in horrid wood or mis- 
shapen stone, and worshipped in dreary waste 
or tangled forest, belong, in the mind's heraldry, 
to almost as ancient a date as those elder and 
discarded Gods of the Pagan mythology, Ops, 
and Rhea and old Saturn, — those strange ano- 
malies of earth and cloudy spirit, born of the 
elements and conscious will, and clothing them- 



ON ANTiaUITY. 147 

selves and all things with shape and formal 
being. The Chronicle of Brute, in Spenser's 
Fairy Queen, has a tolerable air of antiquity in 
it ; so in the dramatic line, the Ghost of one of 
the old kings of Ormus, introduced as Pro- 
logue to Fulke Greville's play of Mustapha, is 
reasonably far-fetched, and palpably obscure. 
A monk in the Popish Calendar, or even in the 
Canterbury Tales, is a more questionable and 
out-of-the-way personage than the Chiron of 
Achilles, or the priest in Homer. When Chau- 
cer, in his Troilus and Cressida, makes the 
Trojan hero invoke the absence of light, in 
these two lines — 

Why proffer'st thou light me for to sell ? 
Go sell it them that smalls sele's grave ! 

he is guilty of an anachronism ; or at least I 
much doubt whether there was such a profes- 
sion as that of seal-engraver in the Trojan war. 
But the dimness of the objects and the quaint- 
ness of the allusion throw us farther back into 
the night of time, than the golden, glittering 
images of the Iliad. The Travels of Anacharsis 
are less obsolete at this time of day, that Cory- 
ate's Crudities, or Fuller's Worthies. " Here is 
some of the ancient city," said a Roman, taking 
up a handful of dust from beneath his feet. 
The ground we tread on is as old as the crea- 

L 2 



14$ ON ANTiaUITY. 

tion, though it does not seem so, except when 
collected into gigantic masses, or separated by 
gloomy solitudes from modern uses and the 
purposes of common life. The lone Helvellyn 
and the silent Andes are in thought coeval with 
the Globe itself, and can only perish with it. 
The Pyramids of Egypt are vast, sublime, old, 
eternal ; but Stonehenge, built no doubt in a 
later day, satisfies my capacity for the sense of 
antiquity j it seems as if as much rain had 
drizzled on its grey, withered head, and it had 
watched out as many winter-nights ; the hand of 
time is upon it, and it has sustained the burden of 
years upon its back, a wonder and a ponderous 
riddle, time out of mind, without known origin 
or use, baffling fable or conjecture, the credu- 
lity of the ignorant, or wise men's search. 

Thou noblest monument of Albion's isle, 
Whether by Merlin's aid, from Scythia's shore 
To Amber's fatal plain Pendragon bore, 
Huge frame of giant hands, the mighty pile, 
T'entomb his Britons slain by Hengist's guile : 
Or Druid priests, sprinkled with human gore, 
Taught mid thy massy maze their njystic lore : 
Or Danish chiefs, enrich'd with savage spoil, 
To victory's idol vast, an unhewn shrine, 
Rear'd the rude heap, or in thy hallow 'd ground 
Repose the kings of Brutus' genuine line ; 
Or hiere those kings in solemn state were crown'd ; 



ON ANTiaUlTY. 149 

Studious to trace thy wondrous origin, 

We muse on many an ancient tale renown'd. 

Warton. 

So it is with respect to ourselves also ; it is 
the sense of change or decay that marks the dif- 
ference between the real and apparent progress 
of time, botli in the events of our own lives and 
the history of the world we live in. 

Impressions of a peculiar and accidental na- 
ture, of which few traces are left, and which 
return seldom or never, fade in the distance, and 
are consigned to obscurity, — while those that 
belong to a given and definite class are kept 
up, and assume a constant and tangible form, 
from familiarity and habit. That which was 
personal to myself merely, is lost and confounded 
with other things, like a drop in the ocean ; it 
was but a point at first, which by its nearness 
affected me, and by its removal becomes no- 
thing; while circumstances of a general in- 
terest and abstract importance present the same 
distinct, well-known aspect as ever, and are 
durable in proportion to the extent of their in- 
fluence. Our own idle feelings and foolish 
fancies we get tired or grow ashamed of, as their 
novelty wears out ; ** when we become men, 
we put away childish things ;" but the impres- 
sions we derive from the exercise of our higher 



150 ON ANTIGIUITY. 

faculties last as long as the faculties them- 
selves. They have nothing to do with time, 
place, and circumstance ; and are of uni- 
versal applicability and recurrence. An in- 
cident in my own history, that delighted or 
tormented me very much at the time, I may 
have long since blotted from my memory, — or 
have great difficulty in calhng to mind after a 
certain period ; but I can never forget the first 
time of my seeing Mrs. Siddons act ; — which 
is as if it happened yesterday ; and the reason 
is because it has been something for me to 
think of ever since. The petty and the per- 
sonal, that which appeals to our senses and our 
appetites, passes away with the occasion that 
gives it birth. The grand and the ideal, that 
which appeals to the imagination, can only 
perish with it, and remains with us, unimpaired 
in its lofty abstraction, from youth to age ; as 
wherever we go, we still see the same heavenly 
bodies shining over our heads ! An old familiar 
face, the house that we were brought up in, 
sometimes the scenes and places that we for- 
merly knew and loved, may be changed, so that 
we hardly know them again ; the characters in 
books, the faces in old pictures, the proposi- 
tions in Euclid, remain the same as when they 
were first pointed out to us. There is a conti- 
nual alternation of generation and decay in 



ON ANTiaUlTY. 151 

individual forms and feelings, that marks the 
progress of existence, and the ceaseless current 
of our lives, borne along with it ; but this does 
not extend to our love of art or knowledge of 
nature. It seems a long time ago since some 
of the first events of the French Revolution ; 
the prominent characters that figured then have 
been swept away and succeeded by others; yet I 
cannot say that this circumstance has in any way 
abated my hatred of tyranny, or reconciled my un- 
derstanding to the fashionable doctrine of Divine 
Right. The sight of an old newspaper of that 
date would give one a fit of the spleen for half an 
hour ; on the other hand, it must be confessed, 
Mr. Burke's Reflections on this subject are as 
fresh and dazzling as in the year 1791 ; and his 
Letter to a Noble Lord is even now as interest- 
ing as Lord John Russell's Letter to Mr. Wil- 
berforce, which appeared only a few weeks back. 
Ephemeral politics and still-born productions 
are speedily consigned to oblivion ; great prin- 
ciples and original works are a match even for 
time itself! 

We may, by following up this train of ideas, 
give some account why time runs faster as our 
years increase. We gain by habit and experi- 
ence a more determinate and settled, that is, 
a more uniform notion of things. We refer 



152 ON ANTiaUITY. 

each particular to a given standard. Our im- 
pressions acquire tlie character of identical pro- 
positions. Our most striking thoughts are 
turned into truisms. One observation is like 
another, that I made formerly. The idea I 
have of a certain character or subject is just the 
same as I had ten years ago. I have learnt 
nothing since. There is no alteration percept- 
ible, no advance made j so that the two points 
of time seem to touch and coincide. I get from 
the one to the other immediately by the famili- 
arity of habit, by the undistinguishing process 
of abstraction. What I can recal so easily and 
mechanically does not seem far off; it is com- 
pletely within my reach, and consequently close 
to me in apprehension. I have no intricate web of 
curious speculation to wind or unwind, to pass 
from one state of feeling and opinion to the other; 
no complicated train of associations, which place 
an immeasurable barrier between my knowledge 
or my ignorance at different epochs. There is 
no contrast, no repugnance to widen the inter- 
val ; no new sentiment infused, like another 
atmosphere, to lengthen the perspective. I am 
but where I was. I see the object before me 
just as I have been accustomed to do. The 
ideas are written down in the brain as in the 
page of a book — totldcm verbis et Uteris. The 



ON ANTiaUITV. 1.53 

mind becomes stereotyped. By not going for- 
ward to explore new regions, or break up new 
grounds, we are thrown backmore and more upon 
our past acquisitions ; and this Iiabitual recur- 
rence increases the facility and indifference with 
which we make the imaginary transition. 13y 
thinking of what has been, we change places 
with ourselves, and transpose our personal iden- 
tity at will ; so as to fix the slider of our impro- 
gressive continuance at whatever point we 
please. This is an advantage or a disadvan- 
tage, which we have not in youth. After a cer- 
tain period, w^e neither lose nor gain, neither 
add to, nor diminish our stock ; up to that 
})eriod we do nothing else but lose our former 
notions and being, and gain a new one every 
instant. Our life is like the birth of a new day; 
the dawn breaks apace, and the clouds clear 
away. A new world of thought and observation 
is opened to our search. A year makes the dif- 
ference of an age. A total alteration takes place 
in our ideas, feelings, habits, looks. We out- 
grow ourselves. A separate set of objects, of 
the existence of which we had not a suspicion, 
engages and occupies our whole souls. Shapes 
and colours of all varieties, and of gorgeous 
tint, intercept our view of what we were. Life 
thickens. Time glows on its axle. Every re- 



154 ON ANTiaUITY. 

volution of the wheel gives an unsettled aspect 
to things. The world and its inhabitants turn 
round, and we forget one change of scene in 
another. Art woos us ; science tempts us into her 
intricate labyrinths; each step presents unlooked- 
for vistas, and closes upon us our backward path. 
Our onward road is strange, obscure, and infinite. 
We are bewildered in a shadow^, lost in a dream. 
Our perceptions have the brightness and the 
indistinctness of a trance. Our continuity of 
consciousness is broken, crumbles, and falls in 
pieces. We go on, learning and forgetting 
every hour. Our feelings are chaotic, con- 
fused, strange to each other and to ourselves. 
Our life does not hang together, — but strag- 
gling, disjointed, winds its slow length along, 
stretching out to the endless future — unmindful 
of the ignorant past. We seem many beings in 
one, and cast the slough of our existence daily. 
The birth of knowledge is the generation of 
time. The unfolding of our experience is long 
and voluminous ; nor do we all at once recover 
from our surprise at the number of objects that 
distract our attention. Every new study is a 
separate, arduous, and insurmountable vmder- 
taking. We are lost in wonder at the magni- 
tude, the difficulty, and the interminable pros- 
pect. We spell out the first years of our exist- 



ON ANTiaUITY. 135 



ence, like learning a lesson for the first time, 
where every advance is slow, doubtful, interest- 
ing ; afterwards we rehearse our parts by rote, 
and are hardly conscious of the meaning. A 
very short period (from fifteen to twenty-five 
or thirty) includes the whole map and table of 
contents of human life. From that time we 
may be said to live our lives over again, repeat 
ourselves, — the same thoughts return at stated 
intervals, like the tunes of a barrel-organ ; and 
the volume of the universe is no more than a 
form of words and book of reference. 

Time in general is supposed to move faster or 
slower, as we attend more or less to the succes- 
sion of our ideas, in the same manner as distance 
is increased or lessened by the greater or less 
variety of intervening objects. There is, how- 
ever, a difference in this respect. Suspense, 
where the mind is engrossed with one idea, and 
kept from amusing itself with any other, is not 
only the most uncomfortable, but the most tire- 
some of all things. The fixing our attention on 
a single point makes us more sensible of the de- 
lay, and hangs an additional weight of fretful 
impatience on every moment of expectation. 
People in country places, without employment 
or artificial resources, complain that time lies 
heavy on their hands. Its leaden pace is not 



156 ON ANTiaUITY. 

occasioned by the quantity of thought, but by 
vacancy, and the continual, languid craving 
after excitement. It wants spirit and vivacity 
to give it motion. We are on the watch to see 
how time goes ; and it appears to lag behind, 
because, in the absence of objects to arrest our 
immediate attention, we are always getting on 
before it. We do not see its divisions, but we 
feel the galling pressure of each creeping sand 
that measures out our hours. Again, a rapid 
succession of external objects and amusements* 
which leave no room for reflection, and where 
one gratification is forgotten in the next, makes 
time pass quickly, as well as delightfully. We 
do not perceive an extent of surface, but only a 
succession of points. We are whirled swiftly 
along by the hand of dissipation, but cannot stay 
to look behind us. On the contrary, change of 
scene, travelling through a foreign country, or 
the meeting with a variety of striking adven- 
tures that lay hold of the imagination, and con- 
tinue to haunt it in a waking dream, will make 
days seem weeks. From the crowd of events, 
the number of distinct points of view, brought 
into a small compass, we seem to have passed 
through a great length of time, when it is no 
such thing. In traversing a flat, barren country, 
the monotony of our ideas fatigues, and makes 



ON ANTiaUITY. 1^7 

the way longer ; whereas, if the prospect is di- 
versified and picturesque, we get over the miles 
without counting them. In painting or writing, 
hours are melted almost into minutes : the mind, 
ahsorbed in the eagerness of its pursuit, forgets 
the time necessary to accomplish it j and, in- 
deed, the clock often finds us employed on the 
same thought or part of a picture that occupied 
us when it struck last. It seems then, there are 
several other circumstances besides the number 
and distinctness of our ideas, to be taken into the 
account in the measure of time, or in considering 
" whom time ambles withal, whom time gallops 
withal, and whom he stands still withal *." Time 

* " Rosalind. Time travels in divers paces with divers 
persons : I'll tell you who time ambles withal, who time trots 
withal, who time gallops withal, and who he stands still 
withal. 

Orlayido. I pry thee, who doth he trot withal ? 

Ros. Marry, he trots hard with a yomig maid between 
the contract of her marriage and the day it is solemnized : 
if the interim be but a se'nnight, time's pace is so hard that 
it seems the length of seven years. 

Orl. Who ambles time withal ? 

Ros. With a priest that lacks Latin, and a rich man that 
hath not the gout ; for the one sleeps easily, because he 
cannot study ; and the other lives merrily, because he feels 
no pain ; the one lacking the burden of lean and wasteful 
learning 5 the other knowing no burden of heavy tedious 
penury. These time ambles with. 



158 ON ANTiaUITY. 

wears away slowly with a man in solitary con- 
finement ; not from the number or variety of his 
ideas, but from their weary sameness, fretting like 
drops of water. The imagination may distinguish 
the lapse of time by the brilliant variety of its 
tints, and the many striking shapes it assumes ; 
the heart feels it by the weight of sadness, and 
*' grim-visaged, comfortless despair !" 

I will conclude this subject with remarking, 
that the fancied shortness of life is aided by the 
apprehension of a future state. The constantly 
directing our hopes and fears to a higher state 
of being beyond the present, necessarily brings 
death habitually before us, and defines the nar- 
row limits within which we hold our frail exist- 
ence, as mountains bound the horizon, and un- 
avoidably draw our attention to it. This may 
be one reason among others why the fear of 
death was a less prominent feature in ancient 
times than it is at present ; because the thoughts 
of it, and of a future state, were less frequently 

Orl. Who doth he gallop withal ? 

Ros. With a thief to the gallows j for though he go as 
softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there. 

Orl. Who stays it withal ? 

^05. With lawyers in the vacation ; for they sleep be- 
tween term and term, and then they perceive not how time 
moves." — As You Like It, Act III. Scene II. 



ON ANTIGLUITY. 159 

impressed on the mind by religion and morality. 
The greater progress of civilization and security 
in modern times has also considerably to do 
with our practical effeminacy ; for though the 
old Pagans were not bound to think of death as 
a religious duty, they never could foresee when 
they should be compelled to submit to it, as a 
natural necessity, or accident of war, &c. They 
viewed death, therefore, with an eye of specu- 
lative indifference and practical resolution. 
That the idea of annihilation did not impress 
them with the same horror and repugnance as it 
does the modern believer, or even infidel, is 
easily accounted for (though a writer in the 
Edinburgh Review thinks the question insolu- 
ble) * from this plain reason, viz. that not being 

* " On the other point, namely, the dark and sceptical 
spirit prevalent through the works of this poet (Lord 
Byron ) , we shall not now utter all that we feel, but rather 
direct the notice of our readers to it as a singular phenome- 
non in the poetry of the age. Whoever has studied the 
spirit of Greek and Roman literature, must have been struck 
with the comparative disregard and indifference, wherewith 
the thinking men of these exquisitely polished nations con- 
templated those subjects of darkness and mystery which 
afford at some period or other of his life, so much disquiet 
— we had almost said so much agony, to the mind of every 
reflecting modern. It is difficult to account for this in any 
very satisfactory, and we suspect altogether impossible to 



l60 ON ATSTiaUITY. 

taught from childhood a behef in a future state 
of existence as a part of the creed of their coun- 

do so in any strictly logical, manner. In reading the works 
of Plato and his interpreter Cicero, we find the germs of 
all the doubts and anxieties to which we have alluded, so 
far as these are connected with the workings of our reason. 
The singularity is. that those clouds of darkness, which 
hang over the intellect, do not appear, so far as we can per- 
ceive, to have thrown at any time any very alarming shade 
upon the feelings or temper of the ancient sceptic. Wc 
should think a very great deal of this was owing to the bril- 
liancy and activity of his southern fancy. The lighter spi- 
rits of antiquity, like the more mercurial of our moderns, 
sought refuge in mere gaiety du cceur and derision. The 
graver poets and philosophers — and poetry and philosophy 
were in those days seldom disunited — built up some aiiy 
and beautiful system of mysticism, each following his own de- 
vices, and suiting the erection to his own peculiarities of hope 
and inclination j and this being once accomplished, the mind 
appears to have felt quite satisfied with wliat it had done, 
and to have reposed amidst the splendours of its sand-built 
fantastic edifice, with as much security as if it had been 
grooved and rivetted into the rock of ages. The mere exer- 
cise of ingenuity in devising a system furnished consolation 
to its creators, or improvers. Lucretius is a striking exam- 
ple of all this ; and it may be averred that down to the time 
of Claudian, who lived in the fourth century of our aera, in 
no classical writer of antiquity do there occur any traces 
of what moderns understand by the restlessness and discom- 
fort of uncertainty, as to the government of the world and 
the future destinies of man." — Edinburgh Review, vol. xxx. 
}}. 96, 97. Article, Childe Harold, Canto 4. 



ON ANTIQUITY. 161 

try, the supposition that there was no such 
state in store for them, could not shock their 
feelings, or confound their imagination, in the 
same manner as it does witli us, who have been 
brought up in such a belief; and who live with 
those who deeply cherish, and would be un- 
happy without a full conviction of it. It is the 
Christian religion alone that takes us to the 
highest pinnacle of the Temple, to point out to 
us "the glory hereafter to be revealed," and 
that makes us shrink back with affright from 
the precipice of annihilation that yawns below. 
Those who have never entertained a hope, can- 
not be greatly staggered by having it struck from 
under their feet ; those who have never been 
led to expect the reversion of an estate, will 
not be excessively disappointed at finding that 
the inheritance has descended to others. 



Second Serioi. vol. ii. M 



ESSAY VII. 

ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 
WRITING AND SPEAKING. 



M 2 



ESSAY VII. 

ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 
WRITIl^G AND SPEAKING. 



" Some minds are proportioned to that which may be dis- 
patched at once, or within a short return of time: others to 
that which begins afar off, and is to be won with length of 
pursuit." Lord Bacon. 

It is a common observation, that few persons 
can be found who speak and write equally well. 
Not only is it obvious that the two faculties do 
not always go together in the same proportions: 
but they are not unusually in direct opposition 
to each other. We find that the greatest au- 
thors often make the worst company in the 
world ; and again, some of the liveliest fellows 
imaginable in conversation, or extempore speak- 
ing, seem to lose all their vivacity and spirit the 
moment they set pen to paper. For this a 
greater degree of quickness or slowness of parts, 
education, habit, temper, turn of mind, and a 
variety of collateral and predisposing causes are 
necessary to account. The subject is at least 
curious, and worthy of an attempt to explain it. 



l66 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

I shall endeavour to illustrate the difference by 
familiar examples rather than by analytical rea- 
sonings. The philosopher of old was not un- 
wise, who defined motion by getting up and 
walking. 

The great leading distinction between writing 
and speaking is, tha"5 more time is allowed for 
the one than the other : and hence different 
faculties are required for, and different objects 
attained by, each. He is properly the best 
speaker who can collect together the greatest 
number of apposite ideas at a moment's warning: 
he is properly the best writer who can give 
utterance to the greatest quantity of valuable 
knowledge in the course of his whole life. The 
chief requisite for the one, then, appears to be 
quickness and facility of perception — for the 
other, patience of soul, and a power increasing 
with the difficulties it has to master. He can- 
not be denied to be an expert speaker, a lively 
companion, who is never at a loss for something 
to say on every occasion or subject that offers : 
he, by the same rule, will make a respectable 
writer, who, by dint of study, can find out any 
thing good to say upon any one point that has 
not been touched upon before, or who, by ask- 
ing for time, can give the most complete and 
comprehensive view of any question. The one 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. lf)7 

must be done off-lumd, at a single blow : the 
other can only be done by a repetition of blows, 
by having time to think and do better.. In 
speaking, less is required of you, if you only do 
it at once, with grace and spirit: in writing, 
you stipulate for all that you are capable of, 
but you have the choice of your own time and 
subject. You do not expect from the manu- 
facturer the same dispatch in executing an or- 
der that you do from the shopkeeper or ware- 
houseman. The difference of quicker and sloiver, 
however, is not all : that is merely a difference 
of comparison in doing the same thing. But the 
writer and speaker have to do things essentially 
different. Besides habit, and greater or less 
facihty, there is also a certain reach of capacity, 
a certain depth or shallowness, grossness or re- 
finement of intellect, which marks out the dis- 
tinction between those whose chief ambition is 
to shine by producing an immediate effect, or 
who are thrown back, by a natural bias, on the 
severer researches of thought and study. 

We see persons of that standard or texture of 
mind that they can do nothing, but on the spur 
of the occasion : if they have time to deliberate, 
they are lost. There are others who have no 
resource, who cannot advance a step by any 
efforts or assistance, beyond a successful ar- 



1G8 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

rangement of common-places : but these they 
have always at command, at every body's ser- 
vice. There is F ; meet him where you 

will in the street, he has his topic ready to dis- 
charge in the same breath with the customarv 
forms of sahitation ; he is hand and glove with 
it ; on it goes and off, and he manages it like 
Wart his caliver. 

Hear him but reason in divinity, 
And, all-admiring, with an inward wish 
You would desire that he were made a prelate. 
Let him but talk of any state-afFair, 
You'd say it had been all in all his study. 
Turn him to any cause of policy, 
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose, 
Familiar as his garter. Vl'hen he speaks, 
- The air, a charter'd libertine, stands still — 

but, ere you have time to answer him, he is off 
like a shot, to repeat the same rounded, fluent 
observations to others : — a perfect master of the 
sentences, a walking polemic wound up for the 
day, a smartly bound political pocket-book ! Set 
the same person to write a common paragraph, 
and he cannot get through it for very weari- 
ness : ask him a question, ever so little out of 
the common road, and he stares you in the face. 
What does all this bustle, animation, plausibility, 
and command of words amount to ? A lively 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. l69 

flow of aniiiial spirits, a good deal of confidence, 
a communicative turn, and a tolerably tena- 
cious memory with respect to floating opinions 
and current phrases. Beyond the routine of the 
daily newspapers and coflee-house criticism, 
such persons do not venture to think at all : 
or if thev did, it would be so much the worse 
for them, for they would only be perplexed in 
the attempt, and would perform their part in 
the mechanism of society with so much the less 
alacrity and easy volubility. 

The most dashing orator I ever heard is the 
flattest writer I ever read. In speaking, he was 
like a volcano vomiting out lava; in writing, he 
is like a volcano burnt out. Nothing but the dry 
cinders, the hard shell remains. The tongues 
of flame, with which, in haranguing a mixed 
assembly, he used to illuminate his subject, and 
almost scorched up the panting air, do not ap- 
pear painted on the margin of his works. He 
was the model of a flashy, powerful demagogue 
— a madman blest with a fit audience. He was 
possessed, infuriated with the patriotic mania ; 
he seemed to rend and tear the rotten carcase of 
corruption with the remorseless, indecent rage 
of a wild beast : he mourned over the bleeding 
body of his country, like another Antony over 
the dead body of Caesar, as if he would " move 



170 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

the very stones of Rome to rise and mutiny :" 
he pointed to the "Persian abodes, the glittering 
temples" of oppression and luxury, with pro- 
phetic exultation ; and, like another Helen, had 
almost fired another Troy ! The lightning of 
national indignation flashed from his eye ; the 
workings of the popular mind were seen labour- 
ing in his bosom : it writhed and swelled with 
its rank " fraught of aspics' tongues," and the 
poison frothed over at his lips. Thus qualified, 
he " wielded at will the fierce democracy, and 
fulmin'd over" an area of souls, of no mean 
circumference. He who might be said to have 
'' roared you in the ears of the groundlings an 
'twere any lion, aggravates his voice" on paper, 
" like any sucking-dove." It is not merely that 
the same individual cannot sit down quietly in 
his closet, and produce the same, or a correspon- 
dent effect — that what he delivers over to the 
compositor is tame, and trite, and tedious — that 
he cannot by any means, as it were, " create a 
soul under the ribs of death" — but sit down 
yourself, and read one of these very popular and 
electrical effusions (for they have been pub- 
lished) and you would not believe it to be the 
same ! The thunder-and-lightning mixture of 
the orator turns out a mere drab-coloured suit 
in the person of the prose-writer. We wonder 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. I7I 

at the change, and think there must be some 
mistake, some Icger-de-main trick played oft' 
upon us, by which what before appeared so fine 
now appears to be so worthless. The deception 
took place before ; now it is removed. " Bot- 
tom ! thou art translated !" might be placed as a 
motto under most collections of printed speeches 
that I have had the good fortune to meet with, 
whether originally addressed to the people, the 
senate, or the bar. Burke's and Windham's 
form an exception : Mr. Coleridge's Condones 
ad Populum clo not, any more than Mr. Thel- 
wall's Tribune. What we read is the same : 
what we hear and see is different — " the self- 
same words, but not to the self-same tune." The 
orator's vehemence of gesture, the loudness of 
the voice, the speaking eye, the conscious atti- 
tude, the inexplicable dumb shew and noise, — 
all " those brave sublunary things that made his 
raptures clear," — are no longer there, and with- 
out these he is nothing; — his " fire and air" turn 
to puddle and ditch-water, and the God of elo- 
quence and of our idolatry sinks into a common 
mortal, or an image of lead, with a few labels, 
nicknames, and party watch-words stuck in his 
mouth. The truth is, that these always made up 
the stock of his intellectual wealth ; but a cer- 
tain exaggeration and extravagance of manner 



172 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

covered the nakedness, and swelled out the 
emptiness of the matter: the sympathy of angry 
multitudes with an impassioned theatrical de- 
claimer supplied the place of argument or wit ; 
while the physical animation and ardour of the 
speaker evaporated in " sound and fury, signi- 
fying nothing," and leaving no trace behind it. 
A popular speaker (such as I have been here 
describing) is like a vulgar actor off the stage — 
take away his cue, and he has nothing to say for 
himself. Or he is so accustomed to the intoxi- 
cation of popular applause, that without that sti- 
mulus he has no motive or power of exertion 
left — neither imagination, understanding, liveli- 
liness, common sense, words or ideas — he is 
fairly cleared out ; and in the intervals of sober 
reason, is the dullest and most imbecile of all 

yO mortals. 

' . An orator can hardly get beyond common- 

JfV places: if he does, he gets beyond his hearers. 
>i( The most successful speakers, even in the House 

1^ of Commons, have not been the best scholars or 

the finest writers — neither those who took the 
most profound views of their subject, nor who 
adorned it with the most original fancy, or 
the richest combinations of language. Those 
speeches that in general told best at the time, 
are not now readable. What were the mate- 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 173 

rials of which th.ey were chiefly composed ? An 
imposing detail of passing events, a formal dis- 
play of official documents, an appeal to esta- 
blished maxims, an echo of popular clamour, 
some worn-out metaphor newly vamped-up, — 
some hackneyed argument used for the hun- 
dredth, nay thousandth time, to fall in with the 
interests, the passions, or prejudices of listening 
and devoted admirers; — some truth or falsehood, 
repeated as the Shibboleth of party time out of 
mind, which gathers strength from sympathy as 
it spreads, because it is understood or assented 
to by the million, and finds, in the increased ac- 
tion of the minds of numbers, the weight and 
force of an instinct. A common-place does not 
leave the mind " sceptical, puzzled, and unde- 
cided in the moment of action :" — *' it gives a 
body to opinion, and a permanence to fugitive 
belief." It operates mechanically, and opens an 
instantaneous and infallible communication be- 
tween the hearer and speaker. A set of cant- 
phrases, arranged in sounding sentences, and 
pronounced " with good emphasis and discre- 
tion," keep the gross and irritable humours of an 
audience in constant fermentation ; and levy no 
tax on the understanding. To give a reason 
for any thing is to breed a doubt of it, which 
doubt you may not remove in the sequel j either 



174 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

because your reason may not be a good one, or 
because the person to whom it is addressed may 
not be able to comprehend it, or because others 
may not be able to comprehend it. He who offers 
to go into the grounds of an acknowledged axiom, 
risks the unanimity of the company '^ by most 
admired disorder," as he who digs to the foun- 
dation of a building to shew its solidity, risks its 
falling. But a common-place is enshrined in 
its own unquestioned evidence, and constitutes 
its own immortal basis. Nature, it has been 
said, abhors a vacuum; and the House of Com- 
mons, it might be said, hates every thing but a 
common-place ! — Mr. Burke did not often shock 
the prejudices of the House : he endeavoured to 
account for thern^ to " lay the flattering unction'* 
of philosophy "to their souls.'* They could not 
endure him. Yet he did not attempt this by 
dry argument alone : he called to his aid the 
flowers of poetical fiction, and strewed the most 
dazzling colours of language over the Standing 
Orders of the House. It was a double offence 
to them — an aggravation of the encroachments 
of his genius. They would rather " hear a cat 
mew or an axle-tree grate," than hear a man 
talk philosophy by the hour — 

Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose, 
But musical as is Apollo's lute, 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 17<5 

And a perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets, 
Where no crude surfeit reigns. 

He was emphatically called the Dinner-BelL 
They went out by shoals when he began to 
speak. They coughed and shuffled him down. 
While he was uttering some of the finest obser- 
vations (to speak in compass) that ever were de- 
livered in that House, they walked out, not as 
the beasts came out of the ark, by twos and by 
threes, but in droves and companies of tens, of 
dozens, and scores I Oh! it is "the heaviest 
stone which melancholy can throw at a man," 
when you are in the middle of a delicate specu- 
lation to see " a robusteous, periwig-pated fel- 
low" deliberately take up his hat and walk out. 
But what effect could Burke's finest observations 
be expected to have on the House of Commons 
in their corporate capacity? On the supposi- 
tion that they were original, refined, compre- 
hensive, his auditors had never heard, and as- 
suredly they had never thought of them before : 
how then should they know that they were good 
or bad, till they had time to consider better of it, 
or till they were told what to think ? In the mean 
time, their effect would be to stop the question : 
they were blanks in the debate : they could at 
best only be laid aside and left ad referendum. 
What would it signify if four or five persons, at 



176 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

the utmost, felt their full force and fascinating 
power the instant they were delivered? They 
would be utterly unintelligible to nine-tenths 
of the persons present, and their impression 
upon any particular individual, more knowing 
than the rest, would be involuntarily paralysed 
by the torpedo touch of the elbow of a qoun- 
try-gentleman or city-orator. There is a re- 
action in insensibility as well as in enthu- 
siasm ; and men in society judge not by their 
own convictions, but by sympathy with others. 
In reading, we may go over the page again, 
whenever any thing new or questionable "gives 
us pause :" besides, we are by ourselves, and it 
is a word to the wise. We are not afraid of un- 
derstanding too much, and being called upon to 
unriddle. In hearing we are (saving the mark !) 
in the company of fools j and time presses. Was 
the debate to be suspended while Mr. Fox or 
Mr. Windham took this or that Honourable 
Member aside, to explain to them that fine ob- 
servation of Mr. Burke's, and to watch over the 
new birth of their understandings, the dawn of 
this new light ! If we were to wait till Noble 
Lords and Honourable Gentlemen were in- 
spired with a relish for abstruse thinking, and a 
taste for the loftier flights of fancy, the business 
of this great nation would shortly be at a stand. 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 177 

No : it is too much to ask that our good things 
should be duly appreciated by the first person 
we meet, or in the next minute after their dis- 
closure J if the world are a little, a very little, 
the wiser or better for them a century hence, it 
is full as much as can be modestly expected ! — 
The impression of any thing deUvered in a large 
assembly must be comparatively null and void, 
unless you not only understand and feel its va- 
lue yourself, but are conscious that it is felt and 
understood by the meanest capacity present. 
Till that is the case, the speaker is in your power, 
not you in his. The eloquence that is effectual 
and irresistible must stir the inert mass of pre- 
judice, and pierce the opaquest shadows of ig- 
norance. Corporate bodies move slow in the 
progress of intellect, for this reason, that they 
must keep back, like convoys, for the heaviest 
sailing vessels under their charge. The sinews 
of the wisest councils are, after all, impudence 
and interest : the most enlightened bodies are 
often but slaves of the weakest intellects they 
reckon among them, and the best-intentioned are 
but tools of the greatest hypocrites and knaves. 
— To conclude what I had to say on the charac- 
ter of Mr. Burke's parliamentary style, I will 
just give an instance of what I mean in affirm- 
ing that it was too recondite for his hearers; 
Second Series, vol. ii. N 



178 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

and it shall be even in so obvious a thing 
as a quotation. Speaking of the newfan- 
gled French Constitution, and in particular 
of the King (Louis XVI.) as the chief power 
in form and appearance only, he repeated the 
famous lines in Milton describing Death, and 
concluded with peculiar emphasis, 

What seeni'd its head, 

The likeness of a kingly crown had on. 

The person who heard him make the speech 
said, that, if ever a poet's language had been 
finely applied by an orator to express his 
thoughts and make out his purpose, it was in 
this instance. The passage, I believe, is not in 
his reported speeches ; and I should think, in 
all likelihood, it " fell still-born '* from his lips ; 
while one of Mr. Canning's well-thumbed quo- 
tations out of Virgil would electrify the Trea- 
sury Benches, and be echoed by all the politi- 
cians of his own standing, and the tyros of his 
own school, from Lord Liverpool in the Upper 
down to Mr. William Ward in the Lower House. 

Mr. Burke was an author before he was a 
Member of Parliament : he ascended to that 
practical eminence from " the platform " of his 
literary pursuits. He walked out of his study 
into the House. But he never became a tho- 
rough-bred debater. He was not " native to 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 179 

that element," nor was he ever '* subdued to 
the quality" of that motley crew of knights, 
citizens, and burgesses. The late Lord Chat- 
ham was made for, and by it. He seemed to 
vault into his seat there, like Hotspur, with the 
exclamation in his mouth — " that Roan shall 
be my throne." Or he sprang out of the 
genius of the House of Commons, like 
Pallas from the head of Jupiter, completely 
armed. He assumed an ascendancy there from 
the very port and stature of his mind — from his 
aspiring and fiery temperament. He vanquish- 
ed, because he could not yield. He controlled 
the purposes of others, because he was strong in 
his own obdurate self-will. He convinced 
his followers, by never doubting himself. He 
did not argue, but assert; he took what he 
chose for granted, instead of making a question 
of it. He was not a dealer in moot-points. He 
seized on some strong-hold in the argument, 
and held it fast with a convulsive grasp — or 
wrested the weapons out of his adversaries' 
hands by main force. He entered the lists like 
a gladiator. He made political controversy a 
combat of personal skill and courage. He was 
not for wasting time in long-winded discussions 
with his opponents, but tried to disarm them by 
a word, by a glance of his eye, so that they 

N 2 



180 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

should not dare to contradict or confront him 
again. He did not wheedle, or palliate, or cir- 
cumvent, or make a studied appeal to the rea- 
son or the passions — he dictated his opinions 
to the House of Commons. '' He spoke as one 
having authority, and not as the Scribes." — 
But if he did not prodnce such an effect either 
by reason or imagination, how did he produce 
it ? The principle by which he exerted his in- 
fluence over others (and it is a principle of 
which some speakers that I might mention 
seem not to have an idea, even in possibi- 
lity) was sympathy. He himself evidently had 
a strong possession of his subject, a thorough 
conviction, an intense interest ; and this com- 
municated itself from his manner^ from the 
tones of his voice, from his commanding atti- 
tudes, and eager gestures, instinctively and un- 
avoidably to his hearers. His will was sur- 
charged with electrical matter like a Voltaic 
battery ; and all who stood within its reach felt 
the full force of the shock. Zeal will do more 
than knowdedge. To say the truth, there is 
little knowledge, — no ingenuity, no parade of 
individual details, not much attempt at general 
argument, neither wit nor fancy in his speeches 
— but there are a few plain truths told home : 
whatever he says, he does not mince the 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 181 

matter, but clenches it in the most unequivocal 
manner, and with the fullest sense of its impor- 
tance, in clear, short, pithy, old English sen- 
tences. The most obvious things, as he puts 
them, read like axioms — so that he appears, as 
it were, the genius of common sense personi- 
fied ; and in turning to his speeches you fancy 
that you have met with (at least) one honest 
statesman I — Lord Chatham commenced his 
career in the intrigues of a camp and the bustle 
of a mess-room ; where he probably learnt that 
the way to govern others, is to make your will 
your warrant, and your word a law. If he had 
spent the early part of his life, like Mr. Burke, 
in writing a treatise on the Sublime and Beau- 
tiful, and in dreaming over the abstract nature 
and causes of things, he would never have taken 
the lead he did in the British Senate. 

Botli Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt (though as 
opposite to each other as possible) were es- 
sentially speakers, not authors, in their mode 
of oratory. Beyond the moment, beyond 
the occasion, beyond the immediate power 
shewn, astonishing as that was, there was little 
remarkable or worth preserving in their speeches. 
There is no thought in them that implies a habit 
of deep and refined reflection (more than we 
are accustomed ordinarily to find in people of 



182 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

education) ; there is no knowledge that does 
not lie within the reach of obvious and mecha- 
nical search ; and as to the powers of language, 
the chief miracle is, that a source of words so 
apt, forcible, and well-arranged, so copious and 
unfailing, should have been found constantly 
open to express their ideas without any previous 
preparation. Considered as written style, they 
are not far out of the common course of things ; 
and perhaps it is assuming too much, and 
making the wonder greatei: than it is, with a 
very natural love of indulging our admiration 
of extraordinary persons, when we conceive that 
parliamentary speeches are in general delivered 
without any previous preparation. They do 
not, it is true, allow of preparation at the mo- 
ment, but they have the preparation of the pre- 
ceding night, and of the night before that, and 
of nights, weeks, months, and years of the same 
endless drudgery and routine, in going over 
the same subjects, argued (with some paltry 
difference) on the same grounds. Practice 
makes perfect. He who has got a speech by 
heart on any particular occasion, cannot be 
much gravelled for lack of matter on any si- 
milar occasion in future. Not only are the to- 
pics the same ; the very same phrases — whole 
batches of them, — are served up as the Order 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 183 

of the Day ; the same parliamentary bead-roll 
of grave impertinence is twanged off, in full 
cadence, by the Honourable Member or his 
Learned and Honourable Friend ; and the well- 
known, voluminous, calculable periods roll over 
the drowsy ears of the auditors, almost before 
they are delivered from the vapid tongue that 
utters them ! It may appear, at first sight, that 
here are a number of persons got together, 
picked out from the whole nation, who can 
speak at all times upon all subjects in the most 
exemplary manner ; but the fact is, they only 
repeat the same things over and over on the 
same subjects, — and they obtain credit for ge- 
neral capacity and ready wit, like Chaucer's 
Monk, who, by having three words of Latin 
always in his mouth, passed for a great scholar. 

A few termes coude he, two or three, 
That he had learned out of som decree ; 
No wonder is, he herd it all the day. 

Try them on any other subject out of doors^ 
and see how soon the extempore wit and wis- 
dom " will halt for it." See how few of those 
who have distinguished themselves in the House 
of Commons have done any thing out of it ; 
how few that have, shine there ! Read over the 
collections of old Debates, twenty, forty, eighty, 
a hundred years ago ; they are the same mutatis 



184 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

mutandis, as those of yesterday. You wonder 
to see how little has been added ; you grieve 
that so little has been lost. Even in their own 
favourite topics, how much are they to seek ! 
They still talk gravely of the Sinking Fund in 
St. Stephen's Chapel, which has been for some 
time exploded as a juggle by Mr. Place of 
Charing-Cross ; and a few of the principles of 
Adam Smith, which every one else had been 
acquainted with long since, are just now begin- 
ning to dawn on the collective understanding of 
the two Houses of Parliament. Instead of an exu- 
berance of sumptuous matter, you have the same 
meagre standing dishes for every day in the 
year. You must serve an apprenticeship to a 
want of originality, to a suspension of thought 
and feeling. You are in a go-cart of preju- 
dices, in a regularly constructed machine of 
pretexts and precedents ; you are not only to 
wear the livery of other men's thoughts, but 
there is a House-of-Commons jargon which 
must be used for every thing. A man of sim- 
plicity and independence of mind cannot easily 
reconcile himself to all this formality and mum- 
mery ; yet woe to him that shall attempt to dis- 
card it ! You can no more move against the 
stream of custom,thanyou can make head against 
a crowd of people ; the mob of lords and gentle- 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 185 

men will not let you speak or think but as they 
do. You are hemmed in, stifled, pinioned, 
pressed to death, — and if you make one false 
step, are " trampled under the hoofs of a swin- 
ish multitude!" Talk of mobs! Is there any 
body of people that has this character in a more 
consummate degree than the House of Com- 
mons? Is there any set of men that determines 
more by acclamation, and less by deliberation 
and individual conviction ? That is moved more 
en masse, in its aggregate capacity, as brute 
force and physical number? That judges with 
more Midas ears, blind and sordid, without dis- 
criminaton of right and wrong? The greatest 
test of courage I can conceive, is to speak truth 
in the House of Commons. I have heard Sir 
Francis Burdett say things there which I could 
not enough admire ; and which he could not 
have ventured upon saying, if, besides his 
honesty, he had not been a man of fortune, of 
family, of character, — aye, and a very good- 
looking man into the bargain ! Dr. Johnson had a 
wish to try his hand in the House of Commons. 
An elephant might as well have been intro- 
duced there, in all the forms : Sir William 
Curtis makes a better figure. Either he or the 
Speaker (Onslow) must have resigned. The 
orbit of his intellect was not the one in which 



% 



186 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

the intellect of the house moved by ancient 
privilege. His common-places w^ere not their 
common-places. — Even Home Tooke failed, 
with all his tact, his self-possession, his ready 
talent, and his long practice at the hustings. 
He had weapons of his own, with which he 
wished to make play, and did not lay his hand 
upon the established levers for wielding the 
House of Commons. A succession of dry, 
sharp-pointed sayings, which come in excellent- 
ly well in the pauses or quick turns of conver- 
sation, do not make a speech. A series of 
drops is not a stream. Besides, he had 
been in the practice of rallying his guests 
and tampering with his subject ; and this 
ironical tone did not suit his new situation. 
He had been used to " give his own little Se- 
nate laws," and when he found the resistance 
of the great one more than he could manage, 
he shrunk back from the attempt, disheartened 
and powerless. It is nothing that a man can 
talk (the better, the worse it is for him) 
unless he can talk in trammels ; he must be 
drilled into the regiment ; he must not run out 
of the course ! The worst thing a man can do 
is to set up for a wit there — or rather (I should 
say) for a humourist — to say odd out-of-the-way 
things, to ape a character, to play the clown or 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 187" 

the wag in the House. This is the very forlorn 
hope of a parliamentary ambition. They may 
tolerate it till they know what you are at, but 
no longer. It may succeed once or twice, but 
the third time you will be sure to break your 
neck. They know nothing of you, or your 
whims, nor have they time to look at a pup- 
pet-show. " They look only at the stop-watch, 
my Lord !" We have seen a very liyely sally of 
this sort which failed lately. The House of 
Commons is the last place where a man will 
draw admiration by making a jest of his own 
character. But if he has a mind to make a jest 
of humanity, of liberty, and of common sense 
and decency, he will succeed well enough ! 

The only person who ever " hit the House 
between wind and water" in this way, — who 
made sport for the Members, and kept his own 
dignity (in our time at least), was Mr. Windham. 
He carried on the traffic in parliamentary co- 
nundrums and enigmas with great eclat for 
more than one season. He mixed up a vein of 
characteristic eccentricity with a succession of 
far-fetched and curious speculations, very plea- 
santly. Extremes meet; and Mr. Windham 
overcame the obstinate attachment of his hear- 
ers to fixed opinions by the force of paradoxes. 
He startled his bed-rid audience effectuallv. A 



188 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

paradox was a treat to them, on the score of 
novelty at least ; '^ the sight of one," according 
to the Scotch proverb, '^' was good for sore 
eyes." So Mr. Windham humoured them in 
the thing for once. He took all sorts of com- 
monly received doctrines and notions (with an 
understood reserve) — reversed them, and set up 
a fanciful theory of his own, instead. The 
changes were like those in a pantomime. Ask 
the first old woman you met her opinion on any 
subject, and you could get at the statesman's ; 
for his would be just the contrary. He would be 
wiser than the old woman at any rate. If a thing 
bad been thought cruel, lie would prove that it 
was humane ; if barbarous, manly ; if wise, 
foolish ; if sense, nonsense. His creed was the 
antithesis of common sense, loyalty excepted. 
Economy he could turn into ridicule, " as a sav- 
ing of cheese-parings and candle-ends ;" — and 
total failure was with him "negative success." He 
had no occasion, in thus setting up for original 
thinking, to inquire into the truth or falsehood 
of any proposition, but to ascertain whether it 
was currently believed in, and then to contra- 
dict it point-blank. He made the vulgar pre- 
judices of others " servile ministers " to his own 
solecisms. It was not easy always to say whe- 
ther he was in jest or earnest — but he contrived 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 189 

to hitch his extravagances into the midst of 
some grave debate ; the House had their laugh 
for nothing ; the question got into shape again, 
and Mr. Windham was allowed to have been 
more brilliant than ever *. 

Mr. Windham was, I have heard, a silent man 
in company. Indeed his whole style was an 
artificial and studied imitation, or capricious 
caricature of Burke's bold, natural, discursive 
manner. This did not imply much spontane- 
ous power or fertility of invention ; he was an 
intellectual posture-master, rather than a man 
of real elasticity and vigour of mind. Mr. Pitt 
was also, I believe, somewhat taciturn and re- 
served. There was nothing clearly in the sub- 
ject-matter of his speeches to connect with the 
ordinary topics of discourse, or with any given 
aspect of human life. One woidd expect him 
to be quite as much in the clouds as the automa- 
ton chess-player, or the last new Opera-singer. 
Mr. Fox said little in private, and complained 

* It must be granted, however, that there was something 
piquant and provoking in his manner of " making the worse 
appear the better reason." In keeping off the ill odour of 
a bad cause, he applied hartshorn and burnt feathers to the 
offended sense ; and did not, like Mr. Canning, treat us with 
the faded flowers of his oratory, like the faint smell of a per- 
fumer's shop, or try to make Government " love-locks " of 
dead men's hair ! 



190 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

that in writing he had no style. So (to com- 
pare great things with small) Jack Davies, the 
unrivalled racket-player, never said any thing at 
all in company, and was what is understood by a 
modest man. When the racket was out of" his 
hand, his occupation, his delight, his glory, 
(that which he excelled all mankind in) was 
gone ! So when Mr. Fox had no longer to keep 
up the ball of debate, with the floor of Saint 
Stephen's for a stage, and the world for specta- 
tors of the game, it is hardly to be wondered at 
that he felt a little at a loss — without his usual 
train of subjects, the same crowd of associa- 
tions, the same spirit of competition, or stimu- 
lus to extraordinary exertion. The excitement 
of leading in the House of Commons (which, 
in addition to the immediate attention and 
applause that follows, is a sort of whispering 
gallery to all Europe) must act upon the brain 
like brandy or laudanum upon the stomach ; 
and must, in most cases, produce the same de- 
bilitating effects afterwards. A man's facul- 
ties must be quite exhausted, his virtue gone 
out of him. That any one accustomed all his 
life to the tributary roar of applause from the 
great council of the nation, should think of 
dieting himself with the prospect of posthumous 
fame as an author, is like offering a confirmed 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 191 

dram-drinker a glass of fair water for his morn- 
ino's draii2:ht. Charles Fox is not to be blamed 
for having written an indifferent history of 
James II. but for having written a history at 
all. It was not his business to write a history 
— his business was not to have made any more 
CoaUfions ! But he found writing so dull, he 
thought it better to be a colleague of Lord 
Grenville ! He did not want style (to say so is 
nonsense, because the style of his speeches was 
just and fine) — he wanted a sounding-board in 
the ear of posterity to try his periods upon. If 
he had gone to the House of Commons in the 
morning, and tried to make a speech fasting, 
when there was nobody to hear him, he might 
have been equally disconcerted at his want of 
style. The habit of speaking is the habit of 
being heard, and of wanting to be heard ; the 
habit of writing is the habit of thinking aloud, 
but without the help of an echo. The orator 
sees his subject in the eager looks of his audi- 
tors ; and feels doubly conscious, doubly im- 
pressed witli it in the glow of their sympathy ; 
the author can only look for encouragement in 
a blank piece of paper. The orator feels the 
impulse of popular enthusiasm, 

like proud seas under him : 

the only Pegasus the writer has to boast, is the 



192 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

hobby-horse of his own thoughts and fancies. 
How is he to get on then ? From the lash of 
necessity. We accordingly see persons of rank 
and fortune continually volunteer into the ser- 
vice of oratory — and the State ; but we have 
few authors who are not paid by the sheet! — I 
myself have heard Charles Fox engaged in fa- 
miliar conversation. It was in the Louvre. 
He was describing the pictures to two persons 
that were with him. He spoke rapidly, but very 
unaffectedly. I remember his saying — " All 
those blues and greens and reds are the Guer- 
cinos ; you may know them by the colours." 
He set Opie right as to Domenichino's Saint 
Jerome. " You will find," he said, " though 
you may not be struck with it at first, that there 
is a great deal of truth and good sense in that 
picture." There was a person at one time a 
good deal with Mr. Fox, who, when the opinion 
of the latter was asked on any subject, very fre- 
quently interposed to give the answer. This 
sort of tantalizing interruption was ingeniously 
enough compared by some one, to walking up 
Ludgate-hill, and having the spire of St. Mar- 
tin's constantly getting in your way, when you 
wish to see the dome of St. Paul's ! — Burke, it 
is said, conversed as he spoke in public, and as 
he wrote. He was communicative, diffuse, 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 193 

magniiicent. " What is the use," said Mr. Fox 
to a friend, " of Sheridan's trying to swell him- 
self out in this manner, like the frog in the 
fable ?" — alluding to his speech on Warren 
Hastings's trial. " It is very well for Burke to 
express himself in that figurative way. It is 
natural to him ; he talks so to his wife, to his 
servants, to his children ; but as for Sheridan, 
he either never opens his mouth at all, or if he 
does, it is to utter some joke. It is out of the 
question for him to affect these Orientalisms.^'' 
Burke once came into Sir Joshua Reynolds's 
painting-room, when one of his pupils was sitting 
for one of the sons of Count Ugolino ; this gentle- 
man was personally introduced to liim ; — " Ah ! i^l 
then," said Burke, " I find that Mr. N— has not < 
only a head that would do for Titian to paint, but 
is himself a painter." At another time, he came 
in when Goldsmith was there, and poured forth 
such a torrent of violent personal abuse against 
the King, that they got to high words, and Gold- 
smith threatened to leave the room if he did not 
desist. Goldsmith bore testimony to his powers 
of conversation. Speaking of Johnson, he said, 
" Does he wind into a subject like a serpent, as 
Burke does?" With respect to his facility in 
composition, there are contradictory accoimts. 
It has been stated by some, that he wrote out a 
Second Series, vol. ir. O 



194< ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

plain sketch first, like a sort of dead colouring, 
and added the ornaments and tropes afterwards. 
I have been assured by a person who had the 
best means of knowing, that the Letter to a 
Noble Lord (the most rapid, impetuous, glanc- 
ing, and sportive of all his works) was printed 
off, and the proof sent to him : and that it was 
returned to the printing-office with so many 
alterations and passages interlined, that the 
compositors refused to correct it as it was — 
took the whole matter in pieces, and re-set the 
copy. This looks like elaboration and after- 
thought. It was also one of Burke's latest com- 
positions. *" A regularly bred speaker would 
have made up his mind beforehand ; but Burke's 
mind being, as originally constituted and by its 
first bias, that of an author, never became set. 
It was in further search and progress. It 
had an internal spring left. It was not tied 
down to the printer's form. It could still pro- 
ject itself into new beauties, and explore strange 
regions from the unwearied impulse of its own de- 
light or curiosity. Perhaps among the passages 
interlined, in this case, were the description of the 

* Tom Paine, while he was busy about any of his w'orks, 
used to walk out, compose a sentence or paragraph in his 
head, come home and write it down, and never altered it 
afterwards. He then added another, and so on, till the whole 
was completed. 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 195 

Duke of Bedford, as " tlie Leviathan among all 
the creatures of the crown,'* — the catalogue rai- 
sonndeoiihe Abb^ Sieycs's pigeon-holes, — or the 
comparison of the English Monarchy to " the 
proud keep of Windsor, with its double belt of 
kindred and coeval towers." Were these to be 
given up ? If he had had to make his defence of 
his pension in the House of Lords, they would 
not have been ready in time, it appears ; and, 
besides, would have been too difficult of execu- 
tion on the spot : a speaker must not set his 
heart on such forbidden fruit. But Mr. Burke 
was an author, and the press did not " shut the 
gates of genius on mankind." A set of oratori- 
cal flourishes, indeed, is soon exhausted, and is 
generally all that the extempore speaker can 
safely aspire to. Not so with the resources of 
art or nature, which are inexhaustible, and 
which the writer has time to seek out, to embody, 
and to fit into shape and use, if he has the 
strength, the courage, and patience to do so. 

There is then a certain range of thought and 
expression beyond the regular rhetorical routine, 
on which the author, to vindicate his title, must 
trench somewhat freely. The proof that this is 
understood to be so, is, that what is called an 
oratorical style is exploded from all good writ- 
ing ; that we immediately lay down an article, 

o 2 



1\)C) ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

even in a common newspaper, in which such 
phrases occur as " the Angel of Reform/* *' the 
drooping Genius of Albion ;" and that a very 
brilliant speech at a loyal dinner-party makes a 
very flimsy, insipid pamphlet. The orator has to 
get up for a certain occasion a striking compila- 
tion of partial topics, which, " to leave no rubs 
or botches in the work," must be pretty familiar, 
as well as palatable to his hearers ; and in doing 
this, he may avail himself of all the resources of 
an artificial memory. The writer must be ori- 
ginal, or he is nothing. He is not to take up 
with ready-made goods; for he has time allowed 
him to .create his own materials, to make novel 
combinations of thought and fancy, to contend 
with unforeseen difficulties of style and execu- 
tion, while we look on, and admire the growing 
work in secret and at leisure. There is a degree 
of finishing as well as of solid strength in writing, 
which is not to be got at every day, and we can 
wait for perfection. The author owes a debt to 
truth and nature which he cannot satisfy at sight, 
but he has pawned his head on redeeming it. 
It is not a string of clap-traps to answer a tem- 
porary or party-purpose, — violent, vulgar, and 
illiberal, — but general and lasting truth that 
we require at his hands. We go to him as pu- 
pils, not as partisans. We have a right to expect 



WRITING AND SI'EAKING. 197 

from him profounder views of things ; finer ob- 
servations; more ingenious illustrations; hap- 
pier and bolder expressions. He is to give the 
choice and picked results of a whole life of 
study ; what he has struck out in his most feli- 
citous moods, has treasured up with most pride, 
has laboured to bring to light with most anxiety 
and confidence of success. He may turn a pe- 
riod in his head fifty different w^ays, so that it 
comes out smooth and round at last. He may 
have caught a glimpse of a simile, and it may 
have vanished again : let him be on the watch 
for it, as the idle boy watches for the lurking- 
place of the adder. We can wait. He is not 
satisfied with a reason he has offered for some- 
thing ; let him wait till he finds a better reason. 
There is some word, some phrase, some idiom 
that expresses a particular idea better than any 
other, but he cannot for the life of him recollect 
it : let him wait till he does. Is it strange that 
among twenty thousand words in the English 
hmguage, the one of all others that he most 
needs should have escaped him ? There are 
more things in nature than there are words in 
the English language, and he must not expect to 
lay rash hands on them all at once. 

Lcara to xordc slow : all other graces 
Will follow in tlieir proper places. 



398 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

You allow a writer a year to think of a subject ; 
he should not put you off with a truism at last. 
You allow him a year more to find out words for 
his thoughts ; he should not give us an echo of 
all the fine things that have been said a hundred 
times.* All authors, however, are not so squeam- 
ish ; but take up with words and ideas as they 
find them delivered down to them. Happy are 
they who write Latin verses ! Who copy the style 
of Dr. Johnson ! Who hold up the phrase of an- 
cient Pistol ! They do not trouble themselves 
with those hair-breadth distinctions of thought 
or meaning that puzzle nicer heads — let us leave 
them to their repose ! A person in habits of 
composition often hesitates in conversation for 
a particular word : it is because he is in search 
of the best word, and that he cannot hit upon. 
In writing he would stop till it came. -^ 
It is not true, however, that the scholar could 
avail himself of a more ordinary word if he chose, 
or readily acquire a command of ordinary lan- 
G:ua2:e ; for his associations are habituallv in- 

* Just as a poet ought not to cheat us with lame metre 
and defective rhymes, which might be excusable in an im- 
provisatori versifier. 

t That is essentially a bad style which seems as if the 
person writing it never stopped for breath, nor gave himself 
a moment's pause, but strove to make np by redundancy and 
fluency for want of choice and correctness of expression. 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 199 

tense, not vague and shallow ; and words occur 
to him only as tallies to certain modifications of 
feeling. They are links in the chain of thought. 
His imagination is fastidious, and rejects all 
tliose tliat are *' of no mark or likelihood." Cer- 
tain words are in his mind indissolubly wedded to 
certain things ; and none are admitted at the lev^e 
of his thoughts, but those of which the banns 
have been solemnised with scrupulous propriety. 
Again, the student finds a stimulus to literary 
exertion, not in the immediate ^clat of his un- 
dertaking, but in the difficulty of his subject, and 
the progressive nature of his task. He is not 
wound up to a sudden and extraordinary effort 
of presence of mind ; but is for ever awake to 
the silent influxes of things, and his life is one 
long labour. Are there no sweeteners of his 
toil? No reflections, in the absence of popular 
applause or social indulgence, to cheer him on 
his way ? Let the reader judge. His pleasure 
is the counterpart of, and borrowed from the 
same source as the writer's. A man does not 
read out of vanity, nor in company, but to amuse 
his own thoughts. If the reader, from disinte- 
rested and merely intellectual motives, relishes 
an author's '' fancies and good nights," the last 
may be supposed to have relished them no less. 
If he laughs at a joke, the inventor chuckled 



200 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

over it to the full as much. If he is delighted 
with a phrase, he maybe sure the writer jumped 
at it ; if he is pleased to cull a straggling flower 
from the page, he may believe that it was plucked 
with no less fondness from the face of nature. 
Does he fasten, with gathering brow and looks 
intent, on some difficult speculation ? He may 
be convinced that the writer thought it a fine 
thing to split his brain in solving so curious a 
problem, and to publish his discovery to the 
world. There is some satisfaction in the con- 
templation of power ; there is also a little pride 
in the conscious possession of it. With what 
pleasure do we read books ! If authors could 
but feel this, or remember what they themselves 
once felt, they would need no other temptation 
to persevere. 

To conclude this account with what perhaps 
I ought to have set out with, a definition of 
the character of an author. There are persons 
who in society, in public intercourse, feel no ex- 
citement, 

" Dull as the lake that slumbers in the storm," 
but who, when left alone, can lash themselves 
into a foam. They are never less alone than 
when alone. Mount them on a dinner-table, 
and they have nothing to say ; shut them up in 
a room by themselves, and they are inspired. 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 201 

They are ** made fierce with dark keeping." In 
revenge tor being tongue-tyed, a torrent of" words 
flows from their pens, and the storm which was 
so long collecting comes down apace. It never 
rains but it pours. Is not this strange, unac- 
countable ? Not at all so. They have a real 
interest, a real knowledge of the subject, and 
they cannot summon up all that interest, or 
bring all that knowledge to bear, while they 
have any thing else to attend to. Till they can 
do justice to the feeling they have, they can do 
nothing. For this they look into their own 
minds, not in the faces of a gaping multitude. 
What they would say (if they could) does not 
lie at the orifices of the mouth ready for delivery, 
but is wrapped in the folds of the heart and re- 
gistered in the chambers of the brain. In the 
sacred cause of truth that stirs them, they would 
put their whole strength, their whole being into 
requisition ; and as it implies a greater effort to 
drag their words and ideas from their lurking- 
places, so there is no end when they are once set 
in motion. The whole of a man's thoughts and 
feelings cannot lie on the surface, made up for 
use ; but the whole must be a greater quantity, a 
mightier power, if they could be got at, layer 
under layer, and brought into play by the levers 
of" imagination and reflection. Such a person 



202 ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 

theri sees farther and feels deeper than most 
others. He plucks up an argument by the roots, 
he tears out the very heart of his subject. He 
has more pride in conquering the difficulties of 
a question, than vanity in courting the favour of 
an audience. He wishes to satisfy himself be- 
fore he pretends to enlighten the public. He 
takes an interest in things in the abstract more 
than by common consent. Nature is his mis- 
tress, truth his idol. The contemplation of a 
pure idea is the ruling passion of his breast. The 
intervention of other people's notions, the being 
the immediate object of their censure or their 
praise, puts him out. What will tell, what will 
produce an effect, he cares little about ; and 
therefore he produces the greatest. The per- 
sonal is to him an impertinence ; so he conceals 
himself and writes. Solitude '' becomes his glit- 
tering bride, and airy tlioughts his children." 
Such a one is a true author ; and not a member 
of any Debating Club, or Dilettanti Society 
whatever !* 

* I have omitted to dwell on some other differences of body 
and mind that often prevent the same person from shining in 
both capacities of speaker and writer. There are natural 
impediments to public speaking, such as the want of a strong 
voice and steady nerves. A high authority of the present 
day (Mr. Canning) has thought this a matter of so much 



WRITING AND SPEAKING. 203 

importance, that he goes so far as even to let it affect the 
constitution of ParHament, and conceives that gentlemen who 
have not bold foreheads and brazen lungs, but modest preten- 
sions and patriotic views, should be allowed to creep into the 
great assembly of the nation through the avenue of close bo- 
roughs, and not be called upon " to face the storms of 
the hustings." In this point of view, Stentorwas a man of 
genius, and a noisy jack-pudding may cut a considerable 
figure in the " Political House that Jack built." I fancy 
Mr. C. Wynne is the only person in the kingdom who has 
fully made up his mind that a total defect of voice is the 
most necessary qualification for a Speaker of the House of 
Commons ! 



ESSAY VIII. 

ON A PORTRz\IT OF AN ENGLISH LADY, 
BY VANDYKE. 



ESSAY VIII. 

ON A PORTRAIT OF AN ENGLISH LADY, 
BY VANDYKE. 



The portrait I speak of is in the Louvre, 
where it is numbered 416, and the only account 
of it in the Catalogue is that of a Lady and her 
daughter. It is companion to another whole- 
length by the same artist. No. 417, of a Gentle- 
man and a little girl. Both are evidently Eng- 
lish. 

The face of the lady has nothing very remark- 
able in it, but that it may be said to be the very 
perfection of the English female face. It is not 
particularly beautiful, but there is a sweetness 
in it, and a goodness conjoined, which is inex- 
pressibly delightful. The smooth ivory fore- 
head is a little ruffled, as if some slight cause of 
uneasiness, like a cloud, had just passed over it. 
The eyes are raised with a look of timid atten- 
tion ; the mouth is compressed with modest 
sensibility; the complexion is delicate and 
clear; and over the whole figure (which is 
seated) there reign the utmost propriety and 



208 ON A PORTRAIT OF AN ENGLISH LADY, 

decorum. The liabitual gentleness of the cha- 
racter seems to have been dashed with some 
anxious thought or momentary disquiet, and, 
like the shrinking flower, in whose leaves the 
lucid drop yet trembles, looks out and smiles 
at the storm that is overblown. A mother's ten- 
derness, a mother's fear, appears to flutter on 
the surface, and on the extreme verge of the 
expression, and not to have quite subsided into 
thoughtless indifference or mild composure. 
There is a reflection of the same expression in 
the little child at her knee, who turns her head 
round with a certain appearance of constraint 
and innocent wonder ; and perhaps it is the 
difficulty of getting her to sit (or to sit still) that 
has caused the transient contraction of her 
mother's brow, — that lovely, unstained mirror of 
pure affection, too fair, too delicate, too soft 
and feminine for the breath of serious misfor- 
tune ever to come near, or not to crush it. It 
is a face, in short, of the greatest purity and 
sensibihty, sweetness and simplicity, or such as 
Chaucer might have described 

" Where all is couscience and tender heart." 

I have said that it is an English face ; and I 
may add (without being invidious) that it is not 
a French one. I will not say that they have no 
face to equal this ; of that I am not a judge ; but 



ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 209 

1 am sure they have no face equal to this, in tlie 
qualities by which it is distinguished. They may 
have faces as amiable, but then the possessors of 
them will be conscious of it. There may be equal 
elegance, but not the same ease ; there may be 
even greater intelligence, but without the inno- 
cence ; more vivacity, but then it will run into 
petulance or coquetry ; in short, there may be 
every other good quality but a total absence of 
all pretension to or wish to make a display of it, 
but the same unaffected modesty and simplicity. 
In French faces (and I have seen some that 
were charming both for the features and ex- 
pression) there is a varnish of insincerity, a 
something theatrical or meretricious ; but here, 
every particle is pure to the " last recesses of 
the mind." The face (such as it is, and it has a 
considerable share both of beauty and meaning) 
is without the smallest alloy of affectation. There 
is no false glitter in the eyes to make them look 
brighter ; no little wrinkles about the corners 
of the eye-lids, the effect of self-conceit ; no 
pursing up of the mouth, no significant leer, no 
primness, no extravagance, no assumed levity 
or gravity. You have the genuine text of nature 
without gloss or comment. There is no height- 
ening of conscious charms to produce greater 
effect, no studying of airs and graces in the 
Second Series, vol. ii. P 



210 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

glass of vanity. You have not the remotest 
hint of the milliner, the dancing-master, the 
dealer in paints and patches. You have before 
you a real English lady of the seventeenth cen- 
tury, who looks like one, because she cannot look 
otherwise; whose expression of sweetness, intelli- 
gence, or concern is just what is natural to her, and 
what the occasion requires; whose entire demea- 
nour is the emanation of her habitual sentiments 
and disposition, and who is as free from guile or 
affectation as the little child by her side. I repeat 
that this is not the distinguishing character of 
the French physiognomy, which, at its best, is 
often spoiled by a consciousness of what it is, 
and a restless desire to be something more. 

Goodness of disposition, with a clear complex- 
ion and handsome features, is the chief ingre- 
dient in English beauty. There is a great dif- 
ference in this respect between Vandyke's por- 
traits of women and Titian's, of which we may 
find examples in the Louvre. The picture, 
which goes by the name of his Mistress, is one 
of the most celebrated of the latter. The neck of 
this picture is like a broad crystal mirror ; and 
the hair which she holds so carelessly in her 
hand is like meshes of beaten gold. The eyes 
which roll in their ample sockets, like two 
shining orbs, ard which are turned away from the 



ON A PORTRAIT BV VANDYKE. 211 

spectator, only dart their glances the more power- 
fully into the soul ; and the whole picture is a 
paragon of frank cordial grace, and transparent 
brilliancy of colouring. Her tight boddice com- 
presses her full but finely proportioned waist ; 
while the tucker in part conceals and almost 
clasps the snowy bosom. But you never think 
of any thing beyond the personal attractions, 
and a certain sparkling intelligence. She is not 
marble, but a fine piece of animated clay. 
There is none of that retired and shrinking cha- 
racter, that modesty of demeanour, that sen- 
sitive delicacy, that starts even at the shadow 
of evil — that are so evidently to be traced in 
the portrait by Vandyke. Still there is no po- 
sitive vice, no meanness, no hypocrisy, but an 
unconstrained elastic spirit of self-enjoyment, 
more bent on the end than scrupulous about 
the means; with firmly braced nerves, and a 
tincture of vulgarity. She is not like an Eng- 
lish lady, nor like a lady at all ; but she is a 
very fine servant-girl, conscious of her advan- 
tages, and willing to make the most of them. 
In fact, Titian's Mistress answers exactly, I 
conceive, to the idea conveyed by the English 
word, sweetheart, — The Marchioness of Guasto 
is a fairer comparison. She is by the supposi- 
tion a lady, but still an Italian one. There is a 
p2 



212 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

honeyed richness about the texture of the skin, 
and her air is languid from a sense of pleasure. 
Her dress, though modest, has the marks of 
studied coquetry about it ; it touches the very 
limits which it dares not pass ; and her eyes 
which are bashful and downcast, do not seem 
to droop under the fear of observation, but to 
retire from the gaze of kindled admiration, 

" As if they thrill'd 

Frail hearts, yet quenched not ! " 

One might say, with Othello, of the hand 
with which she holds the globe that is offered 
to her acceptance 

" This hand of yours requires 



A sequester from liberty, fasting and pray'r. 
Much castigation, exercise devout; 
For here 's a young and melting devil here, 
That commonly rebels. 

The hands of Vandyke's portrait have the 
purity and coldness of marble. The colour of 
the face is such as might be breathed upon it 
by the refreshing breeze ; that of the Mar- 
chioness of Guasto's is like the glow it might im- 
bibe from a golden sunset. The expression in 
the English lady springs from her duties and 
her affections ; that of the Italian Countess in- 
clines more to her ease and pleasures. The 
Marchioness of Guasto was one of three sisters, 
to whom, it is said, the inhabitants of Pisa pro- 



ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 213 

posed to pay divine honours, in the manner 
that beauty was worshipped by the fabulous en- 
thusiasts of old. Her husband seems to have 
participated in the common infatuation, from 
the fanciful homage that is paid to her in this 
alllegorical composition ; and if she was at 
all intoxicated by the incense offered to her 
vanity, the painter must be allowed to have 
" qualified " the expression of it " very craftily." 
I pass on to another female face and figure, 
that of the Virgin, in the beautiful picture of 
the Presentation in the Temple, by Guido. 
The expression here is ideal, and has a refer- 
ence to visionary objects and feelings. It is 
marked by an abstraction from outward impres- 
sions, a downcast look, an elevated brow, an ab- 
sorption of purpose, a stillness and resignation, 
that become the person and the scene in which 
she is engaged. The colour is pale or gone ; 
so that purified from every grossness, dead to 
worldly passions, she almost seems like a statue 
kneeling. With knees bent, and hands up- 
lifted, her motionless figure appears sup- 
ported by a soul within, all whose thoughts, 
from the low ground of humility, tend heaven- 
ward. We find none of the triumphant buoy- 
ancy of health and spirit as in the Titian's Mis- 
tress, nor the luxurious softness of the portrait 



214 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

of the Marchioness of Guasto, nor the flexible, 
tremulous sensibility, nor the anxious attention 
to passing circumstances, nor the familiar look 
of the lady by Vandyke ; on the contrary, there 
is a complete unity and concentration of ex- 
pression, the whole is wrought up and moulded 
into one intense feeling, but that feeling fixed 
on objects remote, refined, and etherial as 
the form of the fair supplicant. A still greater 
contrast to this internal, or as it were, intro- 
verted expression, is to be found in the group 
of female heads by the same artist, Guido, in 
his picture of the Flight of' Paris and Helen. 
rhey are the three last heads on the left-hand 
side of the picture. They are thrown into 
every variety of attitude, as if to take the heart 
by surprise at every avenue. A tender warmth 
is suflfused over their faces ; their head-dresses 
are airy and fanciful, their complexion sparkling 
and glossy ; their features seem to catch plea- 
sure from every surrounding object, and to re- 
flect it back again. Vanity, beauty, gaiety 
fflance from their conscious looks and wreathed 
smiles, like the changing colours from the ring- 
dove's neck. To sharpen the efl'ect and point 
the moral, they are accompanied by a little 
negro-boy, who holds up the train of elegance, 
fashion, and voluptuous grace ! 



/ 

ON A PORTRAIT BV VANDYKE. 215 

Guide was the " genteelest " of painters ; he 
was a poetical Vandyke. The latter could give, 
with inimitable and perfect skill, the airs and 
graces of people of fashion under their daily 
and habitual aspects, or as he might see them 
in a looking-glass. The former saw them in his 
'* mind's eye," and could transform them into 
supposed characters and imaginary situations. 
Still the elements were the same. Vandyke 
gave them with the mannerum of habit and the 
individual details ; Guido, as they were rounded 
into grace and smoothness by the breath of fancy, 
and borne along by the tide of sentiment. Guido 
did not want the ideal faculty, though he want- 
ed strength and variety. There is an effemi- 
nacy about his pictures, for he gave only the 
different modifications of beauty. It was the 
Goddess that inspired him, the Siren that se- 
duced him ; and whether as saint or sinner, was 
equally welcome to him. His creations are as 
frail as they are fair. They all turn on a pas- 
sion for beauty, and without this support, are 
nothing. He could paint beauty combined with 
pleasure or sweetness, or grief, or devotion j but 
unless it were the ground-work aud the primary 
condition of his performance, he became insipid, 
ridiculous, and extravagant. There is one 
thing to be said in his favour ; he knew his own 



216 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

powers or followed his own inclinations ; and 
the delicacy of his tact in general prevented 
him from attempting subjects uncongenial with 
it. He " trod the primrose path of dalliance," 
with equal prudence and modesty. That he is 
a little monotonous and tame, is all that can be 
said against him ; and he seldom went out of his 
way to expose his deficiencies in a glaring point 
of view. He came round to subjects of beauty 
at last, or gave them that turn. A story is told 
of his having painted a very lovely head of a 
girl, and being asked from whom he had taken 
it, he replied, " From his old man ! " This 
is not unlikely. He is the only great painter 
(except Correggio) who appears constantly 
to have subjected what he saw to an imaginary 
standard. His Magdalens are more beautiful 
than sorrowful ; in his Madonnas there is more 
of sweetness and modesty than of elevation. 
He makes but little difference between his 
heroes and his heroines ; his angels are women, 
and his women angels ! If it be said that he 
repeated himself too often, and has painted too 
many Magdalens and Madonnas, I can only say 
in answer, " Would he had painted twice as 
many ! " If Giiido wanted compass and variety 
in his art, it signifies little, since what he wanted 
is abundantly supplied by others. He had soft- 



ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 217 

ness, delicacy and ideal grace in a supreme de- 
gree, and his fame rests on these as the cloud 
on the rock. It is to the highest point of ex- 
cellence in any art or department that we look 
back with gratitude and admiration, as it is the 
highest mountain-peak that we catch in the dis- 
tance, and lose sight of only when it turns to air. 
I know of no other difference between Ra- 
phael and Guido, than that the one was twice 
the man the other was. Raphael was a bolder 
genius, and invented according to nature : 
Guido only made draughts after his own dispo- 
sition and character. There is a common cant 
of criticism which makes Titian merely a co- 
lourist. What he really wanted was invention : 
he had expression in the highest degree. I de- 
clare I have seen heads of his with more mean- 
ing in them than any of Raphael's. But he fell 
short of Raphael in this, that (except in one or 
two instances) he could not heighten and adapt 
the expression that he saw to different and 
more striking circumstances. He gave more of 
what he saw than any other painter that ever 
lived, and in the imitative part of his art had a 
more universal genius than Raphael had in 
composition and invention. Beyond the actual 
and habitual look of nature, however, " the 
demon that he served" deserted him, or became 



318 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

a very tame one. Vandyke gave more of the 
general air and manners of fashionable life than 
of individual character; and the subjects that he 
treated are neither remarkable for intellect nor 
passion. They are people of polished manners, 
and placid constitutions ; and many of the very 
best of them are " stupidly good." Titian's 
portraits, on the other hand, frequently present a 
much more formidable than inviting appearance. 
You would hardly trust yourself in a room with 
them. You do not bestow a cold, leisurely ap- 
probation on them, but 'look to see what they 
may be thinking of you, not without some ap- 
prehension for the result. They have not the 
clear smooth skins or the even pulse that Van- 
dyke's seem to possess. They are, for the most 
part, fierce, wary, voluptuous, subtle, haughty. 
Raphael painted Italian faces as well as Titian. 
But he threw into them a character of intellect 
rather than of temperament. In Titian the ir- 
ritability takes the lead, sharpens and gives di- 
rection to the understanding. There seems to 
be a personal controversy between the specta- 
tor and the individual whose portrait he con- 
templates, which shall be master of the other. 
I may refer to two portraits in the Louvre, the 
one by Raphael, the other by Titian, (Nos. 
1153 and 1210,) in illustration of these remarks. 



ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 219 

I do not know two finer or more characteristic 
specimens of these masters, each in its way. 
The one is of a student dressed in black, ab- 
sorbed in thought, intent on some problem, with 
the hands crossed and leaning on a table for sup- 
port, as it were to give freer scope to the labour 
of the brain, and though the eyes are directed 
towards you, it is with evident absence of mind. 
Not so the other portrait, No. 1210. All its fa- 
culties are collected to see what it can make of 
you, as if you had intruded upon it with some 
hostile design, it takes a defensive attitude, and 
shews as much vigilance as dignity. It draws 
itself up, as if to say, " Well, what do you think 
of me ? '* and exercises a discretionary power 
over you. It has " an eye to threaten and 
command," not to be lost in idle thought, or 
in ruminating over some abstruse, speculative 
proposition. It is this intense personal charac- 
ter which, I think, gives the superiority to 
Titian's portraits over all others, and stamps 
them with a living and permanent interest. Of 
other pictures you tire, if you have them con- 
stantly before you ; of his, never. For other 
pictures have either an abstracted look and you 
dismiss them, when you have made up your 
mind on the subject as a matter of criticism ; or 
an heroic look, and you cannot be always strain- 



220 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

ing your enthusiasm ; or an insipid look, and you 
sicken of it. But whenever you turn to look 
at Titian's portraits, tliey appear to be looking 
at you ; there seems to be some question pend- 
ing between you, as though an intimate friend 
or inveterate foe were in the room with you ; 
they exert a kind of fascinating power ; and there 
is that exact resemblance of individual nature 
which is always new and always interesting, be- 
cause you cannot carry away a mental abstrac- 
tion of it, and you must recur to the object to 
revive it in its full force and integrity. I would 
as soon have Raphael's or most other pictures 
hanging up in a Collection, that I might pay 
an occasional visit to them : Titian's are the 
only ones that I should wish to have hanging 
in the same room with me for company ! 

Titian in his portraits appears to have under- 
stood the principle of historical design better 
than any body. Every part tells, and has a 
bearing on the whole. There is no one who has 
such simplicity and repose — no violence, no affec- 
tation, no attemptat forcing an effect; insomuch 
that by the uninitiated he is often condemned as 
unmeaning and insipid. A turn of the eye, a 
compression of the lip decides the point. He 
just draws the fiicc out of its most ordinary 
state, and gives it the direction he would have 



ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. "221 

it take ; but then every part takes the same di- 
rection, and the effect of" this united impression 
(which is absolutely momentary and all but ha- 
bitual) is wonderful. It is that which makes 
his portraits the most natural and the most 
striking in the world. It may be compared to 
the effect of a number of small loadstones, that 
by acting together lift the greatest weights. 
Titian seized upon the lines of character in the 
most original and connected point of view. 
Thus in his celebrated portrait of Hippolito de 
Medici, there is a keen, sharpened expression 
that strikes you, like a blow from the spear that 
he holds in his hand. The look goes through 
you ; yet it has no frown, no startling gesticu- 
lation, no affected penetration. It is quiet, sim- 
ple, but it almost withers you. The whole face 
and each separate feature is cast in the same 
acute or wedge-like form. The forehead is high 
and narrow, the eye-brows raised and coming 
to a point in the middle, the nose straight and 
peaked, the mouth contracted and drawn up at 
the corners, the chin acute, and the two sides of 
the face slanting to a point. The number of 
acute angles which the lines of the face form, 
are, in fact, a net entangling the attention and 
subduing the will. The effect is felt at once, 
though it asks time and consideration to under- 



222 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

stand the cause. It is a face which you would 
beware of rousing into anger or hostility, as you 
would beware of setting in motion some com- 
plicated and dangerous machinery. The pos- 
sessor of it, you may be sure, is no trifler. Such, 
indeed, was the character of the man. This is to 
paint true portrait and true history. So if our 
artist painted a mild and thoughtful expression, 
all the lines of the countenance were softened 
and relaxed. If the mouth was going to speak, 
the whole face was going to speak. It was the 
same in colour. The gradations are infinite, and 
yet so blended as to be imperceptible. No two 
tints are the same, though they produce the 
greatest harmony and simplicity of tone, like 
flesh itself. " If," said a person, pointing to 
the shaded side of a portrait of Titian, " you 
could turn this round to the light, you would 
find it would be of the same colour as the other 
side !" In short, there is manifest in his portraits a 
greater tenaciousness and identity of impression 
than in those of any other painter. Form, co- 
lour, feeling, character, seemed to adhere to his 
eye, and to become part of himself ; and his pic- 
tures, on this account, " leave stings " in the 
minds of the spectators ! There is, I grant, the 
same personal appeal, the same point-blank look 
in some of RaphaePs portraits (see those of a 



I 



ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 228 

Princess of Arragon and of Count Castiglione, 
No. 1150 and 1151) as in Titian : but they want 
the texture of the skin and the minute indivi- 
dual details to stamp them vi^ith the same real- 
ity. And again, as to the uniformity of outline 
in the features, this principle has been acted 
upon and carried to excess by Kneller and 
other artists. The eyes, the eye-brows, the 
nose, the mouth, the chin, are rounded off as if 
they were turned in a lathe, or as a peruke- 
maker arranges the curls of a wig. In them it 
is vile and mechanical, without any reference 
to truth of character or nature ; and instead of 
being pregnant with meaning and originality of 
expression, produces only insipidity and mono- 
tony. 

Perhaps what is offered above as a key to the 
peculiar expression of Titian's heads may also 
serve to explain the difference between painting 
or copying a portrait. As the perfection of 
his faces consists in the entire unity and coinci- 
dence of all the parts, so the difficulty of or- 
dinary portrait-painting is to bring them to 
bear at all, or to piece one feature, or one day's 
labour on to another. In copying, this difficulty 
does not occur at all. The human face is not 
one thing, as the vulgar suppose, nor does it 
remain always the same. It has infinite varieties. 



224 ON A POllTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

which the artist is obh'ged to notice and to re- 
concile, or he will make strange work. Not 
only the light and shade upon it do not conti- 
nue for two minutes the same : the position of 
the head constantly varies (or if you are strict 
with a sitter, he grows sullen and stupid,) each 
feature is in motion every moment, even while 
the artist is working at it, and in the course of 
a day the whole expression of the countenance 
undergoes a change, so that the expression 
which you gave to the forehead or eyes yester- 
day is totally incompatible with that which you 
have to give to the mouth to-day. You can 
only bring it back again to the same point or 
give it a consistent construction by an effort of 
imagination, or a strong feeling of character; and 
you must connect the features together less by 
the eye than by the mind. The mere setting 
down what you see in this medley of successive, 
teazing, contradictory impressions, would never 
do ; either you must continually efface what you 
have done the instant before, or if you retain it, 
you will produce a piece of patchwork, worse than 
any caricature. There must be a comprehen- 
sion of the whole, and in truth a moral sense (as 
well as a literal one ) to unravel the confusion, 
and guide you through the labyrinth of shifting 
muscles and features. You must feel what this 



I 



ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 2^ 

means, and dive into the hidden soul, in order 
to know wliether that is as it ought to be ; for 
you cannot be sure that it remains as it was. 
Portrait-painting is, then, painting from recol- 
lection and from a conception of character, with 
the object before us to assist the memory and 
understanding. In copying, on the contrary, 
one part does not run away and leave you in 
the lurch, while you are intent upon another. 
You have only to attend to what is before you, 
and finish it carefully a bit at a time, and you 
are sure that the whole will come right. One 
might parcel it out into squares, as in engraving, 
and copy one at a time, without seeing or 
thinking of the rest. I do not say that a con- 
ception of the whole, and a feeling of the art 
will not abridge the labour of copying, or pro- 
duce a truer likeness ; but it is the changeable- 
ness or identity of the object that chiefly con- 
stitutes the difficulty or facility of imitating it, 
and, in the latter case, reduces it nearly to a 
mechanical operation. It is the same in the 
imitation of still- life, where real objects have 
not a principle of motion in them. It is as easy 
to produce a facsimile of a table or a chair as 
to copy a picture, because these things do not 
stir from their places any more than the features 
of a portrait stir from theirs. You may there- 

Hecond Series, vol. ii. Q 



^'^6 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

fore bestow any given degree of minute and 
continued attention on finishing any given part 
without being afraid that when finished it will 
not correspond with the rest. Nay, it requires 
more talent to copy a fine portrait than to paint 
an original picture of a table or a chair, for the 
picture has a soul in it, and the table has not. — 
It has been made an objection (and I think a 
just one) against the extreme high-finishing of 
the drapery and back-grounds in portraits (to 
which some schools, particularly the French, 
are addicted), that it gives an unfinished look to 
the face, the most important part of the picture. 
A lady or a gentleman cannot sit quite so long or 
so still as a lay-figure, and if you finish up each 
part according to the length of time it will re- 
main in one position, the face will seem to 
have been painted for the sake of the drapery, 
not the drapery to set off the face. There is an 
obvious limit to every thing, if we attend to com- 
mon sense and feeling. If a carpet or a curtain 
will admit of being finished more than the liv- 
ing face, we finish them less because they excite 
less interest, and we are less willing to throw 
away our time and pains upon them. This is the 
unavoidable result in a natural and well regulated 
style of art ; but what is to be said of a school 
where no interest is felt in any thing, where no- 



ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 2^7 

thing is known of any object but that it is 
there, and where superficial and petty details 
which the eye can explore, and the hand execute, 
with persevering and systematic indifference, 
constitute the soul of art? 

The expression is the great difficulty in his- 
tory or portrait-painting, and yet it is the great 
clue to both. It renders forms doubly impressive 
from the interest and signification attached to 
them, and at the same time renders the imitation 
of them critically nice, by making any departure 
from the line of truth doubly sensible. Mr. 
Coleridge used to say, that what gave the ro- 
mantic and mysterious interest to Salvator's 
landscapes was their containing some implicit 
analogy to human or other living forms. His 
rocks had a latent resemblance to the outline 
of a human face ; his trees had the distorted jag- 
ged shape of a satyr's horns and grotesque fea- 
tures. I do not think this is the case ; but it 
may serve to supply us with an illustration of 
the present question. Suppose a given outline to 
represent a human face, but to be so disguised 
by circumstances and little interruptions as to 
be mistaken for a projecting fragment of a rock 
in a natural scenery. As long as we conceive of 
this outline merely as a representation of a rock 

q2 



228 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

or other inanimate substance, any copy of it, 
however rude, will seem tlie same and as good 
as the original. Now let the disguise be removed 
and the general resemblance to a human face 
pointed out, and what before seemed perfect, 
will be found to be deficient in the most essen- 
tial features. Let it be further understood to 
be a profile of a particular face that we know, 
and all likeness will vanish from the want of 
the individual expression, which can only be 
given by being felt. That is, the imitation of 
external and visible form is only correct or 
nearly perfect, when the information of the eye 
and the direction of the hand are aided and 
confirmed by the previous knowledge and 
actual feeling of character in the object repre- 
sented. The more there is of character and 
feeling in any object, and the greater sympathy 
there is with it in the mind of the artist, the 
closer will be the affinity between the imitation 
and the thing imitated ; as the more there is of 
character and expression in the object without 
a proportionable sympathy with it in the imita- 
tor, the more obvious will this defect and the im- 
perfection of the copy become. That is, expres- 
sion is the great test and measure of a genius for 
painting, and the fine arts. The mere imitation 
of still-life, however perfect, can never furnish 



ON A PORTRAIT liY VANDYKE. 229 

proofs of the liighest skill or talent ; for there is 
an inner sense, a deeper intuition into nature 
that is never unfolded by merely mechanical 
objects, and which, if it were called out by a 
new soul being suddenly infused into an inani- 
mate substance, would make the former uncon- 
scious representation appear crude and vapid. 
The eye is sharpened and the hand made more 
delicate in its tact, 

* " While by the power 

Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, 
We see into the life of things." 

We not only see, but feel expression, by the 
help of the finest of all our senses, the sense of 
pleasure and pain. He then is the greatest 
painter who can put the greatest quantity of 
expression into his works, for this is the nicest 
and most subtle object of imitation ; it is that 
in which any defect is soonest visible, which 
must be able to stand the severest scrutiny, and 
where the power of avoiding errors, extrava- 
gance, or tameness can only be supplied by the 
fund of moral feeling, the strength or delicacy 
of the artist's sympathy with the ideal object of 
his imitation. To see or imitate any given sen- 
sible object is one thing, the effect of attention 
and practice ; but to give expression to a face is 
to collect its meaning from a tliousand other 



230 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

sources, is to bring into play the observation 
and feeling of one's whole life, or an infinity of 
knowledge bearing upon a single object in differ- 
ent degrees and manners, and implying a lof- 
tiness and refinement of character proportioned 
to the loftiness and refinement of expression 
delineated. Expression is of all things the least 
to be mistaken, and the most evanescent in its 
manifestations. Pope's lines on the character 
of women may be addressed to the painter who 
undertakes to embody it. 

" Come then, the colours and the ground prepare, 
Dip in the rainbow, trick it ofF in air ; 
Chuse a firm cloud, before it falls, and in it 
Catch, ere it change, the Cynthia of the minute." 

It is a maxim among painters that no one 
can paint more than his own character, or more 
than he himself understands or can enter into. 
Nay, even in copying a head, we have some dif- 
ficulty in making the features unlike our own. 
A person with a low forehead or a short chin 
puts a constraint on himself in painting a high 
forehead or a long chin. So much has sympa- 
thy to do with wliat is supposed to be a mere act 
of servile imitation ! — To pursue this argument 
one step farther. People sometimes wonder 
what difficulty there can be in painting, and ask 
what you have to do but to set down what 



ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 231 

you see ? This is true, but the difficulty is to 
see what is before you. This is at least as dif- 
ficult as to learn any trade or language. We 
imagine that we see the whole of nature, be- 
cause we are aware of no more than we see of 
it. We also suppose that any given object, a 
head, a hand, is one thing, because we see it at 
once, and call it by one name. But how little 
we see or know, even of the most familiar face, 
beyond a vague abstraction, will be evident to 
every one who tries to recollect distinctly all its 
component parts, or to draw the most rude out- 
line of it for the first time ; or who considers the 
variety of surface, the numberless lights and 
shades, the tints of the skin, every particle and 
pore of which varies, the forms and markings of 
the features, the combined expression, and all 
these caught (as far as common use is concerned) 
by a random glance, and communicated by a pass- 
ing word. A student, when he first copies a head, 
soon comes to a stand, or is at a loss to proceed 
from seeing nothing more in the face than there 
is in his copy. After a year or two's practice 
he never knows when to have done, and the 
longer he has been occupied in copying a face 
or any particular feature, sees more and more 
in it, that he has left undone and can never 
hope to do. There have been only four or five 



232 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

painters who could ever produce a copy of the 
human countenance really fit to be seen ; and 
even of'these few none was ever perfect, except 
in giving some single quality or partial aspect of 
nature, which happened to fall in with his own 
particular studies and the bias of his genius, as 
Raphael the drawing, Rembrandt the light and 
shade, Vandyke ease and delicacy of appear- 
ance, &c. Titian gave more than any one else, 
and yet he had his defects. After this, shall we 
say that any, the commonest and most un in- 
structed spectator sees the whole of nature at a 
single glance, and would be able to stamp a 
perfect representation of it on the canvass, if he 
could embody the image in his mind's eye ? 

I have in this Essay mentioned one or two 
of the portraits in the Louvre that I like best- 
The two landscapes which I should most covet, 
are the one with a Rainbow by Rubens, and the 
Adam and Eve in Paradise by Poussin. In the 
first, shepherds are reposing with their flocks un- 
der the shelter of a breezy grove, the distances 
are of air, and the whole landscape seems just 
washed with the shower that has passed off. 
The Adam and Eve by Poussin is the full growth 
andluxuriantexpansionoftheprinciple ofvegeta- 
tion. It is the first lovely dawn of creation, when 
nature played her virginfancies wild; when all was 



ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. ^33 

sweetness and freshness, and the heavens drop- 
ped fatness. It is the very ideal of landscape- 
painting, and of the scene it is intended to re- 
present. It throws us back to the first ages of 
the world, and to the only period of perfect hu- 
man bliss, which is, however, on the point of 
being soon disturbed. * I should be contented 
with these four or five pictures, the Lady by Van- 
dyke, the Titian, the Presentation in the Tem- 

* I maybe allowed to mention here (not for the sake of invi- 
dious comparison, but to explain my meaning, ) Mr. Martin's 
picture of Adam and Eve asleep in Paradise. It has this ca- 
pital defect, that there is no repose in it. You see two insig- 
nificant naked figures, and a preposterous architectural land- 
scape, like a range of buildings over-looking them. They 
might as well have been represented on the top of the pin- 
nacle of the Temple, with the world and all the glories 
thereof spread out before them. They ought to have been 
painted imparadised in one another's arms, shut up in mea- 
sureless content, with Eden's choicest bowers closing round 
them, and Nature stooping to clothe them with vernal flow- 
ers. Nothing could be too retii'ed, too voluptuous, too sa- 
cred from " day's garish eye ; " on the contrary, you have a 
gaudy panoramic view, a glittering barren waste, a triple 
row of clouds, of rocks, and mountains, piled one upon the 
other, as if the imagination already bent its idle gaze over 
that wide world which was so soon to be our place of exile, 
and the aching, restless spirit of the artist was occupied in 
building a stately prison for our first parents, instead of 
decking their bridal bed, and wrapping them in a short-liTcd 
dream of bliss. 



234 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

pie, the Rubens, and the Poussin, or even with 
faithful copies of them, added to the two which 
I have of a youug Neapolitan Nobleman and of 
the Hippolito de Medici; and which, when I 
look at them, recal other times and the feel- 
ings with which they were done. It is now 
twenty years since I made those copies, and I 
hope to keep them while I live. It seems to me 
,no longer ago than yesterday. Should the 
next twenty years pass as swiftly, forty years 
will have glided by me like a dream. By this 
kind of speculation I can look down as from a 
slippery height on the beginning, and the end 
of life beneath my feet, and the thought makes 
me dizzy 1 

My taste in pictures is, I believe, very differ- 
ent from that of rich and princely collectors. 
I would not give two-pence for the whole Gal- 
lery at Fonthill. I should like to have a few 
pictures hung round the room, that speak to me 
with well-known looks, that touch some string of 
memory — not a number of varnished, smooth, 
glittering gewgaws. The taste of the Great in 
pictures is singular, but not unaccountable. 
The King is said to prefer the Dutch to the 
Italian school of painting j and if you hint your 
suqirise at this, you are looked upon as a very 
Gothic and outre sort of person. You are told. 



ON A PORTRAIT BV VANDYKE. ^35 

however, by way of consolation, — " To be sure, 
there is Lord Carlisle likes an Italian picture — 
Mr. Holwell Carr likes an Italian picture — the 
Marquis of Stafford is fond of an Italian picture 
— Sir George Beaumont likes an Italian pic- 
ture I " These, notwithstanding, are regarded 
as quaint and daring exceptions to the esta- 
blished rule ; aud their preference is a species 
of leze mnjestS in the Fine Arts, as great an ec- 
centricity and want of fashionable etiquette, as 
if any gentleman or nobleman still preferred 
old claret to new, when the King is known to 
have changed his mind on this subject ; or was 
guilty of the offence of dipping his fore-finger 
and thumb in the middle of a snuff-box, instead 
of gradually approximating the contents to the 
edge of the box, according to the most ap- 
proved models. One would imagine that the 
great and exalted in station would like lofty 
subjects in works of art, whereas they seem to 
have an almost exclusive predilection for the 
mean and mechanical. One would think those 
whose word was law, would be pleased with the 
great and striking effects of the pencil ; * on the 

* The Duke of Wellington, it is said, cannot enter into 
the merits of Raphael ; but he admires " the spirit and fire " 
of Tintoret. I do not wonder at this bias, A sentiment pro- 
bably never dawned upon his Grace's mind ; but he may be 



236 ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 

contrary, they admire nothing but the little and 
elaborate. They have a fondness for cabinet 
and furniture pictures, and a proportionable 
antipathy to works of genius. Even art with 
them must be servile, to be tolerated. Perhaps 
the seeming contradiction may be explained 
thus. Such persons are raised so high above 
the rest of the species, that the more violent 
and agitating pursuits of mankind appear to 
them like the turmoil of ants on a mole-hill. 
Nothing interests them but their own pride and 
self-importance. Our passions are to them an 
impertinence ; an expression of high sentiment 
they rather shrink from as a ludicrous and up- 
start assumption of equaUty. They therefore 
like what glitters to the eye, what is smooth to 
the touch; but they shun, by an instinct of 
sovereign taste, whatever has a soul in it, or 
implies a reciprocity of feehng. The Gods of 
the earth can have no interest in any thing hu- 
man ; they are cut off from all sympathy with 
the " bosoms and businesses of men.^' Instead 
of requiring to be wound up beyond their habi- 
tual feeling of stately dignity, they wish to 

supposed to relish the dashing execution and hit or miss 
manner of the Venetian artist. Oh, Raphael ! well is it that 
it was one who did not understand thee, that blundered upon 
the destruction of humanity ! 



ON A PORTRAIT BY VANDYKE. 237 

liave the springs of over-strained pretension let 
down, to be relaxed with " trifles light as air," 
to be amused with the familiar and frivolous, 
and to have the world appear a scene of still- 
lij'e, except as they disturb it ! The little in 
thought and internal sentiment is a natural re- 
lief and set off to the oppressive sense of exter- 
nal magnificence. Hence kings babble and 
repeat they know not what. A childish dotage 
often accompanies the consciousness of absolute 
power. Repose is somewhere necessary, and 
the soul sleeps while the senses gloat around ! 
Besides, the mechanical and high-finished style 
of art may be considered as something done to 
order. It is a task to be executed more or less 
perfectly, according to the price given, and the 
industry of the artist. We stand by, as it were, to 
see the work done, insist upon a greater degree 
of neatness and accuracy, and exercise a sort of 
petty, jealous jurisdiction over each particular. 
We are judges of the minuteness of the details, 
and though ever so nicely executed, as they give 
us no ideas beyond what we had before, we do 
not feel humbled in the comparison. The artizan 
scarcely rises into the artist ; and the name of 
genius is degraded rather than exalted in his 
person. The performance is so far ours that 
we have paid for it, and the highest price is all 



238 ON A rORTRAlT BY VANDYKE. 

that is necessary to produce the highest finish- 
ing. But it is not so in works of genius and 
imagination. Their price is above rubies. The 
inspiration of the Muse comes not with thej^a^ 
of a monarch, witli the donation of a patron ; 
and, therefore, the Great turn with disgust or 
effeminate indifference from the mighty masters 
of the Italian school, because such works baffle 
and confound their self-love, and make them 
feel that there is something in the mind of man 
which they can neither give nor take away. 

" Quam nihil ad tuum, Papiniane, ingenium ! " 



ESSAY IX. 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIAR ITY. 



ESSAY IX. 

ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

" Horatio. Custom hath made it in him a property of ea- 
siness. 

Hamlet. 'Tis e'en so : the hand of little employment hath 
the daintier sense." 

Shakespear I'epresents his Grave-digger as 
singing while he is occupied in his usual task of 
flinging the skulls out of the earth with his 
spade. On this he takes occasion to remark, 
through one of his speakers, the effect of habit 
in blunting our sensibility to what is painful 
or disgusting in itself. " Custom hath made it 
a property of easiness in him." To which the 
other is made to reply in substance, that those 
who have the least to do have the finest feelings 
generally. The minds and bodies of those who 
are enervated by luxury and ease, and who 
have not had to encounter the wear-and-tear of 
life, present a soft, unresisting surface to out- 
ward impressions, and are endued with a greater 
degree of susceptibility to pleasure and pain. 
Habit in most cases hardens and encrusts, by 
taking away the keener edge of our sensations ; 

Second Series, vol. ii. B 



242 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

but does it not in others quicken and refine, by 
giving a meclianical facility, and by engrafting 
an acquired sense? Habit may be said in tech- 
nical language to add to our irritabilitv and 
lessen our sensibiUty, or to sharpen our active 
perceptions, and deaden our passive ones. Prac- 
tice makes perfect — experience makes us wise. 
The one refers to what we have to do, the other 
to what we feel. I will endeavour to explain the 
distinction, and to give some examples in each 
kind. 

Clowns, servants, and common labourers have, 
it is true, hard and coarse hands, because they 
are accustomed to hard and coarse employ- 
ments ; but mechanics, artizans, and artists of 
various descriptions, who are as constantly em- 
ployed, though on works demanding greater 
skill and exactness, acquire a proportionable 
nicety and discrimination of tact with practice 
and unremitted application. A working jewel- 
ler can perceive slight distinctions of surface, 
and make the smallest incisions in the hardest 
substances from mere practice : a woollen-draper 
perceives the different degrees of the fineness in 
cloth, on the same principle ; a watch-maker 
will insert a great bony fist, and perform the 
nicest operations among the springs aad wheels 
of a complicated and curious machinery, where 
the soft delicate hand of a woman or a child 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 243 

would make nothing but blunders. Again, a 
blind man shews a prodigious sagacity in hear- 
ing and almostjeel'mg objects at a distance from 
him. His other senses acquire an almost pre- 
ternatural quickness from the necessity of re- 
curring to them oftener, and relying on them 
more implicitly, in consequence of the privation 
of sight. The musician distinguishes tones and 
notes, the painter expressions and colours, from 
constant habit and unwearied attention, that 
are quite lost upon the common observer. The 
critic discovers beauties in a poem, the poet 
features in nature, that are generally overlooked 
by those who have not employed their imagina- 
tions or understandings on these particular stu- 
dies. Whatever art or science we devote our- 
selves to, we grow more perfect in with time and 
practice. The range of our perceptions is at once 
enlarged and refined. But — there lies the ques- 
tion that must " give us pause" — is the pleasure 
increased in proportion to our habitual and criti- 
cal discernment, or does not our familiarity with 
nature, with science, and with art, breed an in- 
difference for those objects we are most conver- 
sant with and most masters of? I am afraid 
the answer, if an honest one, must be on the 
unfavourable side ; and that from the moment 
that we can be said to understand any subject 

R 2 



244 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

thoroughly, or can execute any art skilfully, our 
pleasure in it will be found to be on the decline. 
No doubt, that with the opening of every new 
inlet of ideas, there is unfolded a new source of 
pleasure ; but this does not last much longer 
than the first discovery we make of this terra 
incognita ; and with the closing up of every ave- 
nue of novelty, of curiosity, and of mystery, there 
is an end also of our transport, our wonder, and 
our delight ; or it is converted into a very sober, 
rational, and household sort of satisfaction. 

There is a craving after information, as there 
is after food ; and it is in supplying the void, in 
satisfying the appetite, that the pleasure in both 
cases chiefly consists. When the uneasy want 
is removed, both the pleasure and the pain 
cease. So in the acquisition of knowledge or of 
skill, it is the transition from perplexity and 
helplessness, that relieves and delights us ; it is 
the surprise occasioned by the unfolding of 
some new aspect of nature, that fills our eyes 
with tears and our hearts with joy; it is the fear 
of not succeeding, that makes success so wel- 
come, and a giddy uncertainty about the extent 
of our acquisitions, that makes us drunk with 
unexpected possession. We are happy not in 
the total amount of our knowledge, but in the 
last addition we have made to it, in the removal 
of some obstacle, in the drawing aside of some 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 245 

veil, in the contrast between the obscurity of 
night and the brightness of the dawn. But ob- 
jects are magnified in the mist aad haze of con- 
fusion ; the mind is most open to receive striking 
impressions of things in the outset of its pro- 
gress. The most trivial pursuits or successes 
then agitate the whole brain ; whereas afterwards 
the most important only occupy one corner of 
it. The facihty which habit gives in admit- 
ting new ideas, or in reflecting upon old ones, 
renders the exercise of intellectual activity a 
matter of comparative insignificance; and by 
taking away the resistance and the difficulty, 
takes away the liveliness of impulse that imparts 
a sense of pleasure or of pain to the soul. No 
one reads the same book twice over with the 
same satisfaction. It is not that our knowledge 
of it is not greater the second time than the 
first : but our interest in it is less, because the 
addition we make to our knowledge the second 
time is very trifling, while in the first perusal it 
was all clear gain. Thus in youth and child- 
hood every step is fairy -ground, because every 
step is an advance in knowledge and pleasure, 
opens new prospects, and excites new hopes, as 
in after-years, though we may enlarge our circle 
a little, and measure our way more accurately, 
yet in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred we 
only retrace our steps, and repeat the same 



246 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

dull round of weariness and disappointment. 
Knowledge is power ; but it is not pleasure, ex- 
cept when it springs immediately out of igno- 
rance and incapacity. An actor, who plays a 
character for the hundred and fortieth time, un- 
derstands and perhaps performs it better ; but 
does he feel the part, has he the same pleasure 
in it as he had the first time ? The wonder is 
how he can go through with it at all; nor could 
he, were he not supported by the plaudits of the 
audience, who seem like new friends to him, 
or urged on by the fear of disgrace, to which no 
man is ever reconciled. 

I will here take occasion to suggest what ap- 
pears to me the true state of the question, whe- 
ther a great actor is enabled to embody his part 
from feeling or from study. I think at the time 
a from neither; but merely (or chiefly at least) 

f£y from habit. But I think he must have felt the 
'C*' \ character in the first instance with all the enthu- 

siasm of nature and genius, or he never would 
have distinguished himself in it. To say that 
the intellect alone can determine or supply the 
movements or the language of passion, is little 
short of a contradiction in terms. Substituting 
the head for the heart is like saying that the eye 
is a judge of sounds or the ear of colours. If a 
man in cold blood knows how another feels in a 
fit of passion, it is from having been in a passion 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 24<7 

himself before. Nor can t)ie indifferent obser- 
vation of the outward signs attain to the truth 
of nature, without the inward sympathy to im- 
pel us forward, and to tell us where to stop. 
Without that living criterion, we shall be ei- 
ther tame and mechanical, or turgid and ex- 
travagant. The study of individual models pro- 
duces imitators and mannerists : the study of 
general principles produces pedants. It is feel- 
ing alone that makes up for the deficiencies of 
either mode of study ; that expands the meagre- 
ness of the one, that unbends the rigidity of the 
other, that floats a man into the tide of popula- 
rity, and electrifies an audience. It is feel- 
ing, or it is hope and fear, joy and sorrow, love 
and hatred, that is the original source of the 
effects in nature which are brought forward on 
the stage ; and assuredly it is a sympathy with 
this feeling, that must dictate the truest and 
most natural imitations of them. To suppose 
that a person altogether dead to these primary 
passions of the human breast can make a great 
actor, or feign the effects while he is entirely 
ignorant of the cause, is no less absurd than to 
suppose that I can describe a place which I ne- 
ver saw, or mimic a voice which I never heard, 
or speak a language which I never learnt. An 
actor void of genius and passion may be taught 



^48 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

to strut about the stage, and mouth out his words 
with mock-solemnity, and give himself the airs 
of a great actor, but he will never be one. He 
may express his own emptiness and vanity, and 
make people stare, but he will not " send the 
hearers weeping to their beds." The true, ori- 
ginal master-touches that go to the heart, must 
come from it. There is neither truth or beauty 
without nature. Habit may repeat the lesson 
that is thus learnt, just as a poet may transcribe 
a fine passage without being affected by it at the 
time ; but he could not have written it in the 
first instance without feeling the beauty of the 
object he was describing, or without having 
been deeply impressed with it in some moment 
of enthusiasm. It was then that his genius was 
inspired, his style formed, and the foundation of 
his fame laid. People tell you that Sterne was 
hard-'hearted ; that the author of Waverley is a 
mere worldling; that Shakespear was a man with- 
out passions. Do not believe them. Their pas- 
sions might have worn themselves out with con- 
stant over-excitement, so that they only knew 
how they formerly felt ; or they might have the 
controul over them ; or from their very compass 
and variety they might have kept one another 
in check, so that none got very much a-head, 
and broke out into extravagant and overt acts. 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 24>9 

But tliose persons must have experienced the 
feeUngs they express, and entered into the situ- 
ations they describe so finely, at some period or 
other of their lives: the sacred source from 
whence the tears trickle down the cheeks of 
others, was once full, though it may be now 
dried up ; and in all cases where a strong im- 
pression of truth and nature is conveyed to the 
minds of others, it must have previously existed 
in an equal or greater degree in the mind pro- 
ducing it. Perhaps it does not strictly follow, 
that 

" They best can paint them, who have felt them most." 

To do this in perfection other qualifications may 
be necessary: language may be wanting where 
the heart speaks, but that the tongue or the pen 
or pencil can describe the workings of nature 
with the highest truth and eloquence without 
being prompted or holding any communication 
with the heart, past, present, or to come, I ut- 
terly deny. When Talma, in the part of CEdi- 
pus, after the discovery of his misfortune, slowly 
raises his hands and joins them together over 
his head in an attitude of despair, I conceive it 
is because in the extremity of his anguish, and 
in the full sense of his ghastly and desolate situ- 
ation, he feels a want of something as a shield or 
covering to protect him from the weight that is 



250 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

ready to fall and crush him, and he makes 
use of that fine and impressive action for this 
purpose : — not that I suppose he is affected in 
this manner every time he repeats it, but he ne- 
ver would have thought of it but from having 
this deep and bewildering feeling of weight and 
oppression, which naturally suggested it to his 
imagination, and at the same time assured him 
that it was just. Feeling is in fact the scale 
that weighs the truth of all original conceptions. 
When Mrs. Siddons played the part of Mrs. Be- 
verley in the Gamester, and on Stukely's ab- 
rupt declaration of his unprincipled passion at 
the moment of her husband's imprisonment, 
threw into her face that noble succession of va- 
rying emotions, first seeming not to understand 
him, then, as her doubt is removed, rising into 
sudden indignation, then turning to pity, and 
ending in a burst of hysteric scorn and laugh- 
ter, was this the effect of stratagem or fore- 
thought as a painter arranges a number of co- 
lours on his palette ? No — but by placing her- 
self amply in the situation of her heroine, and 
entering into all the circumstances, and feeling 
the dignity of insulted virtue and misfortune, 
that wonderful display of keen and high-wrought 
expressions burst from her involuntarly at the 
same moment, and kindleil her face almost into 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 251 

a blaze of lightning. Yet Mrs. Siddons is some- 
times accused of being cold and insensible. I 
do not wonder that she may seem so after exer- 
tions such as these ; as the Sybils of old after 
their inspired prophetic fury sunk upon the 
ground, breathless and exhausted. But that 
any one can embody high thoughts and passions 
without having the prototypes in their own 
breast, is what I shall not believe upon hearsay, 
and what I am sure cannot be proved by argu- 
ment. 

It is a common complaint, that actors and ac- 
tresses are dull when off the stage. I do not 
know that it is the case ; but I own I should be 
surprised if it were otherwise. Many persons 
expect from the dclat with which they appear in 
certain characters to find them equally brilliant 
in company, not considering that the eifect they 
produce in their artificial characters is the very 
circumstance that must disqualify them for pro- 
ducing any in ordinary cases. They who have 
intoxicated and maddened multitudes by their 
public display of talent, can rarely be supposed 
to feel much stimulus in entertaining one or 
two friends, or in being the life of a dinner- 
party. She who perished over-night by the dag- 
ger or the bowl as Cassandra or Cleopatra, may 
be allowed to sip her tea in silence, and not to 



252 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

be herself again, till she revives in Aspasia. A 
tragic tone does not become familiar conversa- 
tion, and any other must come very awkwardly 
and reluctantly from a greirt tragic actress. At 
least, in the intervals of her professional pa- 
roxysms, she will hardly set up for a verbal critic 
or bluestocking. Comic actors again have their 
repartees put into their mouths, and must feel 
considerably at a loss when their cue is taken 
from them. The most sensible among them are 
modest and silent. It is only those of second- 
rate pretensions who think to make up for the 
want of original wit by practical jokes and slang 
phrases. Theatr-ical manners are, I think, the 
most repulsive of all others. — Actors live on 
applause, and drag on a laborious artificial ex- 
istence by the administration of perpetual pro- 
vocatives to their sympathy with the public gra- 
tification — I will not call it altogether vanity in 
them who delight to make others laugh, any 
more than in us who delight to laugh with them. 
They have a significant phrase to express the 
absence of a proper sense in the audience — 
" there was not a hand in the house." I have 
heard one of the most modest and meritorious 
of them declare, that if there was nobody else to 
applaud, he should like to see a dog wag his tail 
in approbation. There cannot be a greater mis- 



ON NOVEMY AND FAMILIARITY. 253 

take than to suppose that singers dislike to be 
encored. There is often a violent opposition 
out of compassion, with cries of "shame, shame!" 
when a young female debutante is about to be 
encored twice in a favourite air, as if it were 
taking a cruel advantage of her — instead of the 
third, she would be glad to sing it for the thir- 
tieth time, and " die of an encore in operatic 
pain ! " The excitement of public applause at 
last becomes a painful habit, and either in indo- 
lent or over-active temperaments produces a 
corresponding craving after privacy and leisure. 
Mr. L-T^ — a short time ago was in treaty for a 

snug little place near his friend Mr. M at 

Highgate, on which he had so set his heart, that 
when the bargain failed, he actually shed tears 
like a child. He has a right to blubber like a 
school-boy whenever he pleases, who almost 
every night of his life makes hundreds of people 
laugh till they forget they are no longer school- 
boys. I hope, if this should prove a hard win- 
ter, he will again wrap himself up in flannel and 
lamb's-wool, take to his fire-side, and read the 
English Novelists once more fairly through. 
Let him have these lying on his table, Hogarth*s 
prints hung round the room, and with his own 
face to boot, I defy the world to match them 
again! There is something very amiable and 



254 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

praise-worthy in the friendships of the two inge- 
nious actors I have just alluded to: from the ex- 
ample of contrast and disinterestedness it affords, 
it puts me in mind of that of Rosinante and 
Dapple. These Arcadian retirements and or- 
namented retreats are, I suspect, tantalising and 
unsatisfactory resources to the favourites of the 
town. The constant fever of applause, and of 
anxiety to deserve it, which produces the wish 
for repose, disables them from enjoying it. Let 
the calenture be as strong as it will, the eye of 
the pit is upon them in the midst of it: the smile 
of the boxes, the roar of the gallery, pierces 
through their holly-hedges, and overthrows all 
their pastoral theories. Of the public as of the 
sex it may be said, when one has once been a 
candidate for their favours, 

" There is no living with them, nor without them !" 

I wish the late Mr. Kemble had not written 
that stupid book about Richard IIL and closed 
a proud theatrical career with a piece of literary 
foppery. Yet why do I wish it if it pleased him, 
since it made no alteration in my opinion re- 
specting him? Its dry details, its little tortuous 
struggles after contradiction, nay, its fulsome 
praises of a kindred critic, Mr. Gifford (what 
wiU not a retired tragedian do for a niche in the 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. ^55 

Quarterly Review ?) did not blot from my me- 
mory his stately form, his noble features, in 
which old Rome saw herself revived, his manly 
sense and plaintive tones, that were an echo ta 
deep-fraught sentiment; nor make me forget 
anotlier volume published and suppressed long 
before, a volume of poems addressed to Mrs. 
Inchbald, " the silver-voiced Anna." Both are 
dead. Such is the stuff of which our lives are 
made — bubbles that reflect the glorious features 
of the universe, and that glance a passing sha- 
dow, a feeble gleam, on those around them ! 

Mrs. Siddons was in the meridian of her re- 
putation when I first became acquainted with 
the stage. She was an established veteran, 
when I was an unfledged novice ; and, perhaps, 
played those scenes without emotion, which 
filled me, and so many others, with delight and 
awe. So far I had the advantage of her, and 
of myself too. I did not then analyse her excel- 
lences as I ighould now, or divide her merits into 
physical and intellectual advantages, or see that 
her majestic form rose up against misfortune in 
equal sublimity, an antagonist power to it — but 
the total impression (unquestioned, unrefined 
upon) overwhelmed and drowned me in a flood 
of tears. I was stunned and torpid after seeing 
her in any of her great parts. I was uneasy, 



^56 OM NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

and hardly myself, but I felt (more than ever) that 
human life was something very far from being in- 
different, and I seemed to have got a key to un- 
lock the springs of joy and sorrow in the human 
heart. This was no mean possession, and I 
availed myself of it with no sparing hand. The 
pleasure I anticipated at that time in witness- 
ing her dullest performance, was certainly 
greater than I should have now in seeing her 
in the most brilliant. The very sight of her 
name in the play-bills in Tamerlane, or Alex- 
ander the Great, threw a light upon the day, 
and drew after it a long trail of Eastern glory, 
a joy and felicity unutterable, that has since 
vanished in the mists of criticism and the glit- 
ter of idle distinctions. I was in a trance, and 
my dreams were of mighty empires fallen, of 
vast burning zones, of waning time, of Persian 
thrones and them that ,sat on them, of sovereign 
beauty, and of victors vanquished by love. 
Death and Life played their pageant before me. 
The gates were unbarred, the folding doors of 
fancy were thrown open, and I saw all that 
mankind had been, or that I myself could con- 
ceive, pass in sudden and gorgeous review be- 
fore me. No wonder that the huge, dim, disjoint- 
ed vision should enchant and startle me. One 
reason why our first impressions are so strong 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 257 

and lasting is that they are whole-length ones. 
We afterwards divide and compare, and judge 
of things only as they differ from other things. 
At first we measure them from the ground, take in 
only the groups and masses, and are struck with 
the entire contrast to our former ignorance and 
inexperience. If we apprehend only a vague 
gaudy outline, this is not a disadvantage ; for 
we fill it up with our desires and fancies, which 
are most potent in tlieir capacity to create good 
or evil. The first glow of passion in the breast 
throws its radiance over the opening path of 
life ; and it is wonderful how much of the volume 
of our future existence the mere title-page dis- 
closes. The results do not indeed exactly cor- 
respond with our expectations ; but our pas- 
sions survive their first eager ebullition and bit- 
ter disappointment, the bulk of our sensations 
consists of broken vows and fading recollec- 
tions ; and it is not astonishing that there is so 
near a resemblance between our earliest antici- 
pations and our latest sigh, since we obstinately 
believe things to be to the last, what we at first 
wished to find them. 

" Hope travels through, nor quits us till we die." 

Our existence is a tissue of passion, and our 
successive years only present us with fainter 
and fainter copies of the first proof-impressions. 

Second Series, vol. ii. S 



258 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY, 

" The dregs of life," therefore, contain very 
little of force or spirit which 

" the first spritely runnings could not give." 

Imagination is, in this sense, sometimes truer 
than reality; for our passions being " compacted 
of imagination," and our desires whetted by im- 
patience and delay, often lose some of their 
taste and essence witli possession. So in youth 
we look forward to the advances of age, and feel 
them more strongly than when they arrive ; nor 
is this more extraordinary than that from the 
height of a precipice the descent below should 
make us giddy, and that we should be less sen- 
sible of it when we come to the ground. Ex- 
perience can teach us little, I suspect, after the 
first unfolding of our faculties, and the first 
strong excitement of outward objects. It can 
only add to or take away from our original im- 
pressions, and the imagination can make out 
the addition as largely or feel the privation 
as sharply as the senses. The little it can 
teach us, which is to moderate our chagrins 
and sober our expectations to the dull standard 
of reality, we will not learn. '* Reason panders 
will ; " and if we have been disappointed forty 
times, we are only the more resolved that the 
forty-first time shall make up for all the rest, 
and our hope grows desperate as the chances 
are against it. A man who is wary, is so na- 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 259 

turally ; he who is of a sanguine and credulous 
disposition, will continue so in spite of warning ; 
we hearken to no v^oice but that of our secret in- 
clinations and native bias. Mr. Wordsworth 
being asked why he admired the sleep of in- 
fancy, said he thought " there was a grandeur 
in it ; " the reason of which is partly owing to 
the contrast of total unconsciousness to all the 
ills of life, and partly that it is the germ imply- 
ing all the future good ; an untouched, untold 
treasure. In the outset of life, all that is to 
come of it seems to press Math double force 
upon the heart, aud our yearnings after good and 
dread of evil are in proportion to the little we 
have known of either. The first ebullitions of 
hope and fear in the human heart lift us to 
heaven, or sink us to the abyss ; but when 
served out to us in dribblets and palled by re- 
petition, they lose their interest and effect. Or 
the dawn of experience, like that of day, shews 
the wide prospect stretched out before us, and 
dressed in its liveliest colours ; as we proceed, 
we tire of the length of the way and complain 
of its sameness. The path of life is stripped of 
its freshness and beauty ; and as we grow ac- 
quainted with them, we become indifferent to 
weal or woe. 

The best part of our lives we pass in count- 
s 2 



260 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

ing on what is to come ; or in fancying wliat 
may have happened in real or fictitious story to 
others. I have had more pleasure in reading 
the adventures of a novel (and perhaps chang- 
ing situations with the hero) than I ever had in 
my own. I do not think any one can feel much 
happier — a greater degree of heart's ease — than 
I used to feel in reading Tristram Shandy, and 
Peregrine Pickle, and Tom Jones, and the Tat- 
ler, and Gil Bias of Santillane, and Werter, and 
Boccacio. It was some years after that I read 
the last, but his tales 

" Dallied with the innocence of love, 
Like the old Time." 

The story of Frederigo Alberigi affected me 
as if it had been my own case, and I saw his 
hawk upon her perch in the clear, cold air, 
*^ and how fat and fair a bird she was," as plain 
as ever I saw a picture of Titian's; and felt that I 
should have served her up as he did, as a banquet 
for his mistress, who came to visit him at his 
own poor farm. I could wish that Lord Byron 
had employed himself while in Italy in rescuing 
such a writer as Boccacio from unmerited oblo- 
c[ny. instead of making those notable discove- 
ries, that Pope was a poet, and that Shakespear 
was not one ! Mrs. Inchbald was always a great 
favourite with me. There is the true soul of 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 26l 

woman breatliing from what she writes, as much 
as if you heard her voice. It is as if Venus had 
written books. I first read her Simple Story 

(of all places in the world) at M . No 

matter where it was ; for it transported me out 
of myself. I recollect walking out to escape from 
one of the tenderest parts, in order to return 
to it again with double relish. An old crazy 
hand-organ was playing Robin Adair, a summer- 
shower dropped manna on my liead, and slaked 
my feverish thirst of happiness. Her heroine, 
Miss Milner, was at my side. My dream has 
since been verified : — how like it was to the 
reality ! In truth, the reality itself was but 
a dream. Do I not still see that " simple 
movement of her finger" with which Madame 
Basil beckoned Jean Jacques to the seat at her 
feet, the heightened colour that tinged her pro- 
file as she sat at her work netting, the bunch 
of flowers in her hair? Is not the glow of youth 
and beauty in her cheek blended with the 
blushes of the roses in her hair? Do they not 
breathe the breath of love ? And (what though 
the adventure was unfinished by either writer 
or reader) is not the blank filled up with the 
rare and subtle spirit of fancy, that imparts the 
fullness of delight to the air-drawn creations of 
brain ? I once sat on a sunnv bank in a field in 



262 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

which the green blades of corn waved in the 
fitftd northern breeze, and read the letter in the 
New Eloise, in which St. Preux describes the 
Pays de Vaud. I never felt what Shakespear 
calls my " glassy essence," so much as then. 
My thoughts were pure and free. They took a 
tone from the objects before me, and from the 
simple manners of the inhabitants of mountain- 
scenery, so well described in the letter. The style 
gave me the same sensation as the dropsof morn- 
ing dew before they are scorched by the sun ; 
and I thought Julia did well to praise it. I 
wished I could have written such a letter. That 
wish, enhanced by my admiration of genius 
and the feeling of the objects around me, was ac- 
companied with more pleasure than if I had 
written fifty such letters, or had gained all the 
reputation of its immortal author! Of all the pic- 
tures, prints, or drawings I ever saw, none ever 
gave me such satisfaction as the rude etchings 
at the top of Rousseau's Confefisions. There is 
a necromantic spell in the outlines. Imagina- 
tion is a witch. It is not even said anywhere 
that such is the case, but I had got it in my head 
that the rude sketches of old-fashioned houses, 
stone-walls, and stumps of trees represented the 
scenes at Annecy and Vevay, where he who re- 
lished all more sharply than others, and by his 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. '263 

own intense aspirations after good had nearly 
delivered mankind from the yoke of evil, first 
drew the breath of hope. Here love's golden 
rigol bound his brows, and here fell from it. 
It was the partition-wall between life and death 
to him, and all beyond it was a desert ! 

" And bade the lovely scenes at distance hail." 

I used to apply this line to the distant range 
of hills in a paltry landscape, which however 
had a tender vernal tone and a dewy freshness. 
I could look at them till my eyes filled with 
tears, and my heart dissolved in faintness. 
Why do I recal the circumstance after a lapse 
of years with so much interest? Because I felt 
it then. Those feeble outlines were linked in 
my mind to the purest, fondest yearnings after 
good, that dim, airy space contained my little 
all of hope, buoyed up by charming fears; the 
delight with which I dwelt upon it, enhanced by 
my ignorance of what was in store for me, was 
free from mortal grossness, familiarity or disap- 
pointment, and I drank pleasure out of the bo- 
som of the silent hills and gleaming vallies as 
from a cup filled to the brim with love-philtres 
and poisonous sweetness by the sorceress, Fancy! 

Mr. Opie used to consider it as an error to 
suppose that an artist's first works were neces- 



264 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

sarily crude and raw, and that he went on regu- 
larly improving on them afterwards. On the con- 
trary, he maintained that they had the advantage 
of being done "with all his heart, and soul, and 
might;" that they contained his best thoughts, 
those which his genius most eagerly prompted, 
and which he had matured and treasured up 
longest, from the first dawn of art and nature 
on his mind ; and that his subsequent works 
were rather after-thoughts, and the leavings 
and make-shifis of his invention. There is a 
great deal of truth in this view of the matter. 
Poeta nascitur, nonfit\ that is, it is the strong 
character and impulse of the mind that forces 
out its way and stamps itself upon outward ob- 
jects, not that is elicited and laboriously raised 
into artificial importance by contrivance and 
study. An improving actor, artist, or poet 
never becomes a great one. I have known such 
in my time, who were always advancing by slow 
and sure steps to the height of their profession ; 
but in the mean time, some man of genius rose, 
and passing them, at once seized on the top-most 
round of ambition's ladder, so that they still re- 
mained in the second class. A volcano does 
not give warning when it will break out, nor a 
thunder-bolt send word of its approach. Mr. 
Kean stamped himself the first night in Shy- 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. ^65 

lock ; he never did any better. Mr. Kcmble is 
the only great and truly impressive actor I re- 
member, who rose to his stately height by the 
interposition of art and gradations of merit. 
A man of genius is sui generis — to be known, he 
need only to be seen — you can no more dispute 
whether he isone,than you can dispute whether it 
is a panther that is shewn you in a cage. Mrs. Sid- 
dons did not succeed the first time she appeared on 
the London boards, but then it was in Garrick's 
time, who sent her back to the country. He 
startled and put her out in some part she had to 
play with him, by the amazing vividness and in- 
trepidity of his style of acting. Yet old Dr. 
Chauncey who frequented Sir Joshua Rey- 
nolds's, said that he was not himself in his lat- 
ter days, that he got to play harlequin's tricks, 
and was too much in the trammels of the stage, 
and was quite different from what he was when 
he came out at Goodman's-Fields, when he sur- 
prised the town in Richard, as if he had dropped 
from the clouds, and his acting was all fire and 
air. Mrs. Siddons was hardly satisfied with the 
admiration of those who had only seen her 
latter performances, which were distinguished 
chiefly by their towering height and marble 
outline. She has been heard to exclaim, " You 
have seen me only in Lady Macbeth and Queen 



^266 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

Katherine, and Belvidera and Jane Shore— you 
should have seen me when I played these charac- 
ters alternately with Juliet, and Desdemona, and 
Calista, and the Mourning Bride, night after 
night, when I first came from Bath ! " If she 
indeed filled these parts with a beauty and ten- 
derness equal to the sublimity of her other per- 
formances, one had only to see her in them and 
die ! Lord Byron says, that Lady Macbeth died 
when Mrs. Siddons left the stage. Could not 
even her acting help him to understand Shake- 
spear ? — Sir Joshua Reynolds at a late period saw 
some portraits he had done in early life, and 
lamented the little progress he had made. Yet 
he belonged to the laborious and climbing class. 
No one generation improves much upon ano- 
ther; no one individual improves much upon 
himself. What we impart to others we have 
within us, and we have it almost from the first. 
The strongest insight we obtain into nature 
is that which we receive from the broad light 
thrown upon it by the sudden developement 
of our own faculties and feelings. 

Even in science the greatest discoveries have 
been made at an early age. Sir Isaac Newton 
was not twenty when he saw the apple fall to 
the ground. Harvey, I believe, discovered the 
circulation of the blood at eighteen. Berkeley 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 267 

was only six and twenty when he published his 
Essay on Vision. Hartley's great principle was 
developed in an inaugural dissertation at Col- 
lege. Hume wrote his Treatise on Human Na- 
ture while he was yet quite a young man. 
Hobbcs put forth his metaphysical system very 
soon after he quitted the service of Lord Bacon. I 
believealso thatGalileo,Leibnitz,andEulcr com- 
menced their career of discovery quite young; 
and I think it is only then, before the mind be- 
comes set in its own opinions or the dogmas of 
others, that it can have vigour or elasticity to 
throw off the load of prejudice and seize on 
new and extensive combinations of things. In 
exploring new and doubtful tracts of specula- 
tion, the mind strikes out true and original 
views ; as a drop of water hesitates at first what 
direction it shall take, but afterwards follows its 
own course. The very oscillation of the mind 
in its first perilous and staggering search after 
truth, brings together extreme arguments and 
illustrations, that would never occur in a more 
settled and methodised state of opinion, and 
felicitous suggestions turn up when we are try- 
ing experiments on the understanding, of which 
we can have no hope when we have once made 
upour minds to a conclusion, and only go over the 
previous steps that led to it. So that the greater 



268 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

number of opinions we have formed, we are less 
capable of forming new ones, and slide into 
common-places, according as we have them at 
hand to resort to. It is easier taking the beaten 
path than making our way over bogs and preci- 
pices. The great difficulty in philosophy is to 
come to every question with a mind fresh and 
unshackled by former theories, though strength- 
ened by exercise and information ; as in the 
practice of art, the great thing is to retain our 
admiration of the beautiful in nature, together 
with the power to imitate it, and not, from a 
want of this original feeling, to be enslaved by 
formal rules, or dazzled by the mere difficul- 
ties of execution. Habit is necessary to give 
power : but with the stimulus of novelty, the 
love of truth and nature ceases through indo- 
lence or insensibility. Hence wisdom too com- 
monly degenerates into prejudice ; and skill into 
pedantry. Ask a metaphysician what subject 
he understands best ; and he will tell you that 
which he knows the least about. Ask a musi- 
cian to play a favourite tune, and he will select 
an air the most difficult of execution. If you 
ask an artist his opinion of a picture, he will 
point to some defect in perspective or anatomy. 
If an opera-dancer wishes to impress you with 
an idea of his grace and accomplishments, he 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. SCQ 

will throw himself into the most distorted atti- 
tude possible. Who would not rather see a 
dance in the forest of Montmorenci on a sum- 
mer's evening by a hundred laughing peasant- 
girls and their partners, who come to this scene 
for several miles round, rushing through the fo- 
rest-glades, as the hart panteth for the water- 
brooks, than all the pirouettes^ pied-a-plomhs^ 
and entrechats, performed at the French Opera 
by the whole corps de ballet ? Yet the first only 
just contrive to exert their heels, and not 
put their partners out, whilst the last perform 
nothing but feats of dexterity and miracles of 
skill — not one of which they could ever per- 
foVm, if they had not lost every idea of natural 
grace, ease, or decorum in habitual callousness 
or professional vanity, or had one feeling left 
which prompts their rustic rivals to run through 
the mazes of the dance 

" With heedless haste and giddy cunning," 

while the leaves tremble to tlie festive sounds of 
music, and the air circles in gladder currents 
to their joyous movements ! — There was a dance 
in the pantomime at Covent-Garden two years 
ago, which I could have gone to see every night. 
I did go to see it every night that I could make 
an excuse for that purpose. It was nothing; it 
was childish. Yet I could not keep away from 



270 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

it. Some young people came out of a large 
twelfth- cake, dressed in full court-costume, and 
danced a quadrille, and then a minuet, to some 
divine air. Was it that it put me in mind of my 
school-boy days, and of the large bunch of lilac 
that I used to send as a present to my partner ? 
Or of times still longer past, the court of Louis 
XIV. the Duke de Nemours and the Princess of 
Cleves? Or of the time when she who was all 
grace moved in measured steps before me, and 
wafted me into Elysium ? I know not how it 
was ; but it came over the sense with a power 
not to be resisted, 

" Like the sweet south, 
That breathes upon a bank of violets, 
SteaHng and giving odour." 

I mention these things to shew, as I think, that 

pleasures are not 

" Like poppies spread, 
You seize the flower, the bloom is shed, 
Or like the snow, falls in the river, 
A moment white — then melts for ever j 
Or like the borealis race. 
That flit ere you can point their place ; 
Or like the rainbow's lovely form, 
Evanishing amid the storm." 

On the contrary, I think they leave traces of 
themselves behind them, durable and delightful 
even in proportion to the regrets accompanying 



ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 271 

them, Dud wliich \vc relinquish only with our 
being. The most irreconcileable disappoint- 
ments are perhaps those which arise from our 
obtaining all we wish. 

The Opera-figurante despises the peasant-girl 
that dances on the green, however much hap- 
pier she may be or may be thought by the first. 
The one can do what the other cannot. Pride 
is founded not on the sense of happiness, but on 
the sense of power ; and this is one great source 
of self-congratulation, if not of self-satisfaction. 
This, however, is continually increasing, or at 
least renewing with our advances in skill and 
the conquest of difficulties ; and, accordingly, 
there is no end of it while we live or till our fa- 
culties decay. He w^ho undertakes to master 
any art or science has cut himself out work 
enough to last the rest of his life, and may pro- 
mise himself all the enjoyment that is to be found 
in looking down with self-complacent triumph on 
the inferiority of others, or all the torment that 
there is in envying their success. There is no 
danger that the machine will ever stand still af- 
terwards. Mandeville has endeavoured to shew 
that if it were not for envy, malice, and all 
uncharitableness, mankind would perish of pure 
chagrin and ejiftui; and I am not in the humour 
to contradict him. — The same spirit of emu- 



272 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

lation tliat urges us on to surpass others, supplies 
us with a new source of satisfaction (of some- 
thing wliicli is at least the reverse of indifference 
and apathy) in the indefatigable exertion of our 
faculties and the perception of new and minor 
shades of distinction. These, if not so delight- 
ful, are more subtle, and may be m.ultiplied in- 
definitely. They borrow something of taste and 
pleasure from their first origin, till they dwindle 
away into mere abstractions. The exercise, 
whether of our minds or bodies, sharpens and 
gives additional alacrity to our active impres- 
sions, as the indulgence of our sensibility, whe- 
ther to pleasure or pain, blunts our passive ones. 
The will to do, the power to think, is a progres- 
sive faculty, though not the capacity to feel. 
Otherwise, the business of life could not go on. 
If it were necessity alone that oiled the springs 
of society, people would grow tired and restive, 
they w^ould lie down and die. But with use 
there comes a habit, a positive need of something 
to keep off the horror of vacancy. The sense 
of power has a sense of pleasure annexed to it, 
or what is practically tantamount, an impulse, 
an endeavour, that carries us through the most 
tiresome drudgery or the hardest tasks. Indo- 
lence is a part of our nature too. There is a vis 
inertice at first, a difficulty in beginning or 



ON NOVKLTY AND FAMILIARITY. 'ij^ 

in leaving off. I have spun outthis Essay in ;\goo(l 
measure from the dread I feel of entering upon 
new suhjects. — Some such reasoning is necessary 
to account for the headstrong and incorrigible 
violence of the passions vvlien the will is once im- 
plicated. So in ambition, in avarice, in the love 
of gaming and of drinking (where the strong 
stimulus is the chief excitement), there is no 
hope of any termination, of any pause or relax- 
ation ; but we are hurried forward, as by a fever, 
when ail sense of pleasure is dead, and we only 
persevere as it were out of contradiction, and in 
defiance of the obstacles, the mortifications and 
privations we have to encounter. The resist- 
ance of the will to outward circumstances, its 
determination to create its own good or evil, is 
also a part of the same constitution of the mind. 
The solitary captive can make a companion of 
the spider that straggles into his cell, or find 
amusement in counting the nails in his dungeon- 
door; while the proud lord that placed him there 
feels the depth of solitude in crowded ball-rooms 
and hot theatres, and turns with weariness from 
the scenes of luxury and dissipation. Defoe's 
romance is the finest possible exemplification of 
the manner in which our internal resources in- 
crease with our external wants. 

Our affections are enlarged and unfolded with 

Second Series. \'or.. ti. T 



^74 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

time and acquaintance. If we like new books, 
new faces, new scenes, or hanker after those we 
have never seen, we also like old books, old 
faces, old haunts, 

" Round which, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood, 
Our pastime and our happiness have grown." 

If we are repelled after a while by familiarity, or 
when the first gloss of novelty wears off, we are 
brought back from time to time by recurring re- 
collections, and are at last wedded to them by 
a thousand associations. Passion is the undue 
irritation of the will from indulgence or opposi- 
tion : imagination is the anticipation of un- 
known good: affection is the attachment we 
form to any object from its being connected 
with the habitual impression of numberless 
sources and ramifications of pleasure. The 
' heart is the most central of all things. Our du- 
ties also (in which either our affections or our 
understandings are our teachers) are uniform, 
and must find us at our posts. If this is ever 
difficult at first, it is always easy in the end. 
The last pleasure in life is the sense of dis- 
charging our duty. 

Our physical pleasures (unless as they depend 
on imagination and opinion) undergo less alte- 
ration, and are even more lasting than any 
others. They return with returning appetite, 



ON NO\ELTV AND FAMII.TAUITY. ^V^ 

and are as good as new. We do not read the 
same book twice two days following, but we had 
rather eat the same dinner two days following 
than go without one. Our intellectual pleasures, 
which are spread out over a larger surface, are 
variable for that very reason, that they tire by 
repetition, and are diminished in comparison*'. 
Our physical ones have but one condition for 
their duration and sincerity, viz. that they shall 
be unforced and natural. Our passions of a 
grosser kind wear out before our senses : but in 
ordinary cases they grow indolent and conform 
to habit, instead of becoming impatient and in- 
ordinate from a desire of change, as we are sa- 
tisfied with more moderate bodily exercise in 
age or middle life than we are in youth. — Upon 
the whole, there are many things to prop up and 
reinforce our fondness for existence, after the 
intoxication of our first acquaintance with it is 

* I remember Mr. Wordsworth saying, that he thought 
we had pleasanter days in the outset of Hfe, but that our 
years sHd on pretty even one with another, as we gained in 
variety and richness what we lost in intensity. This balance 
of pleasure can however only be hoped for by those who re- 
tain the best feelings of their early youth, and sometimes 
deign to look out of their own minds into those of others : 
for without this we shall grow weary of the continual con- 
templation of self, particularly as that self will be a very 
shabby one. 

T 2 



276 ON NOVELTY AND FAMILIARITY. 

over; health, a walk and the appetite it creates, 
a book, the doing a good-natured or friendly ac- 
tion, are satisfactions that hold out to the last ; 
and with these, and any others to aid us that 
fall harmlessly in our way, we may make a shift 
for a few seasons, after having exhausted the 
short-lived transports of an eager and enthusiastic 
imagination, and without being under the neces- 
sity of hanging or drowning ourselves as soon 
as we come to years of discretion. 



ESSAY X. 



ON OLD ENGLISH WRITERS AND 
SPEAKERS. 



ESSAY X. 

ON OLD ENGLISH WRITERS AND 
SPEAKERS. 



When I see a whole row of standard French 
authors piled up on a Paris book-stall, to the 
height of twenty or thirty volumes, shewing 
their mealy coats to the sun, pink, blue, and 
yellow, they seem to me a wall built up to keep 
out the intrusion of foreign letters. There is 
scarcely such a thing as an Enghsh book to be 
met with, unless, perhaps, a dusty edition of 
Clarissa Harlowe lurks in an obscure corner, 
or a volume of the Sentimental Journey perks 
its well-known title in your face*. But there 
is a huge column of Voltaire's works complete 
in sixty volumes, another (not so frequent) of 

* A splendid edition of Goldsmith has been lately got up 
under the superintendance of Mr. Washington Irvine, with 
a preface and a portrait of each author. By what concate- 
nation of ideas that gentleman arrived at the necessity of 
placing his own portrait before a collection of Goldsmith's 
works, one must have been early imprisoned in transatlantic 
solitudes to understand. 



!^80 ON OLD ENGLISH 

E,ousseau*s in fifty, Racine in ten volumes, 
Moliere in about the same number, La Fon- 
taine, Marmontel, Gil Bias, for ever ; Madame 
Sevign6's Letters, Pascal, Montesquieu, Cre- 
billon, Marivaux, with Montaigne, Rabelais, 
and the grand Corneille more rare ; and 
eighteen full-sized volumes of La Harpe's cri- 
ticism, towering vain-gloriously in the midst of 
them, furnishing the streets of Paris with a gra- 
duated scale of merit for all the rest, and teach- 
ing the very garcons perruquiers how to mea- 
sure the length of each act of each play by a 
stop-watch, and to ascertain whether the angles 
at the four corners of each classic volume are 
right ones. How climb over this lofty pile of 
taste and elegance to wander down into the 
bogs and wastes of English or of any other 
literature, " to this obscure and wild?" Must 
they " on that fair mountain leave to feed, to 
batten on this moor?" Or why should they? 
Have they not literature enough of their own, 
and to spare, without coming to us? Is not the 
public mind crammed, choaked with French 
books, pictures, statues, plays, operas, news- 
papers, parties, and an incessant farrago of 
words, so that it has not a moment left to look 
at home into itself, or abroad into nature? 
Must they cross the Channel to increase the 



, WRITERS AND SPEAKERS. 281 

vast Stock of impertinence, to acquire foreign 
tastes, suppress native prejudices, and reconcile 
the opinions of the Edinburgh and Quarterly 
Reviews ? It is quite needless. There is a pro- 
ject at present entertained in certain circles, to 
give the French a taste for Shakespear. They 
should really begin with the English *. Many 
of their own best authors are neglected: others, 
of whom new Editions have been printed, lie 
heavy on the booksellers' hands. It is by an 
especial dispensation of Providence that lan- 
guages wear out ; as otherwise we should be 
buried alive under a load of books and know- 
ledge. People talk of a philosophical and uni- 
versal language. We have enough to do to 
understand our own, and to read a thousandth 
part (perhaps not the best) of what is written in 

* I would as soon try to remove one side of the Seine or 
of the Thames to the other. By the time an author begins 
to be much talked of abroad, he is going out of fashion at 
home. We have many little Lord Byrons among ourselves, 
who think they can write nearly, if not quite as well. I am 
not anxious to spread Shakespear's fame, or to increase the 
number of his admirers. " What's he that wishes for more 
men from England?" &c. It is enough if he is admired by 
all those who understand him. He may be very inferior to 
many French writers, for what I know ; but I am quite sure 
he is superior to all English ones. We may say that, without 
national prejudice or vanity. 



282 ON OLD ENGLISH 

it. It is ridiculous and monstrous vanity. We 
would set up a standard of general taste and 
of immortal renown ; we would have the bene- 
fits of science and of art universal, because 
we suppose our own capacity to receive 
them unbounded ; and we would have the 
thoughts of others never die, because we flatter 
ourselves that our own will last for ever ; and 
like the frog imitating the ox in the fable, we 
burst in the vain attempt. Man, whatever he 
may think, is a very limited being; the world 
is a narrow circle drawn about him ; the horizon 
limits our immediate view ; immortality means 
a century or two. Languages happily restrict 
the mind to what is of its own native growth 
and fitted for it, as rivers and mountains bound 
countries ; or the empire of learning, as well as 
states, would become unwieldy and overgrown. 
A little importation from foreign markets may 
be good ; but the home production is the chief 
thino; to be looked to. 



'& 



" The proper study of the French is French ! " 

No people can act more uniformly upon a con- 
viction of this maxim, and in that respect I 
think they are much to be commended. 

Mr. Lamb has lately taken it into his head to 
read 8t. Evremout, and works of that stamp. 



WRITERS AND STEAKKKS. 283 

I neither praise nor blame him for it. He ob- 
served, that St. Evremont was a writer half-way 
between Montaigne and Voltaire, with a spice 
of the wdt of the one and the sense of the other. 
I said I was always of opinion that there had 
been a great many clever people in the world, 
both in France and England, but I had been 
sometimes rebuked for it. Lamb took this as a 
slight reproach ; for he has been a little exclu- 
sive and national in his tastes. He said that 
Coleridge had lately given up all his opinions 
respecting German literature, that all their high- 
flown pretensions were in his present estimate 
sheer cant and affectation, and that none of 
their works were worth any thing but Schiller's 
and the early ones of Goethe. " What," I said, 
*' my old friend Werter ! How many battles have 
I had in my own mind, and compunctious visit- 
ings of criticism to stick to my old favourite, 
because Coleridge thought nothing of it ! It is 
hard to find one's-self right at last ! " I found 
ihey w^ere of my mind with respect to the cele- 
brated Faust — that it is a mere piece of abor- 
tive perverseness, a wilful evasion of the subject 
and omission of the characters; that it is written 
on the absurd principle that as to produce a 
popular and powerful effect is not a proof of the 
iiighcst genius, so to produce no effect at all 



384 ON OLD ENGLISH 

is an evidence of the highest poetry — and in 
fine, that the German play is not to be named 
in a day with Marlowe's. Poor Kit ! How Lord 
Byron would have sneered at this comparison 
between the boasted modern and a contem- 
porary of Shakespear's ! Captain Medwin or his 
Lordship must have made a mistake in the 
enumeration of plays of that period still acted. 
There is one of Ben Jonson's, " Every Man in 
his Humour ;" and one of Massinger's, " A new 
Way to Pay old Debts ;" but there is none of 
Ford's either acted or worth acting, except 
" 'Tis Pity She's a Whore," and that would no 
more bear acting than Lord Byron and Goethe 
toijether could have written it. 

This account of Coleridge's vacillations of 
opinion on such subjects might be adduced to 
shew that our love for foreign literature is an 
acquired or rather an assumed taste ; that it is, 
like a foreign religion, adopted for the moment, 
to answer a purpose orto please an idle humour; 
that we do not enter into the dialect of truth 
and nature in their works as we do in our own ; 
and that consequently our taste for them seldom 
becomes a part of ourselves, that " grows with 
our growth, and strengthens with our strength,** 
and only quits us when we die. Probably it is 
this acquaintance with, and pretended admira- 



WRITERS AND SPEAKERS. 285 

tion of, extraneous models, that adulterates and 
spoils our native literature, that polishes the 
surface but undermines its basis, and by taking 
away its original simplicity, character, and force, 
makes it just tolerable to others, and a matter 
of much indifference to ourselves. When I 
see Lord Byron's poems stuck all over Paris, it 
strikes me as ominous of the decline of English 
genius: on the contrary, when I find the Scotch 
Novels in still greater request, I think it augurs 
well for the improvement of French taste *. 

* I have heard the popularity of Sir Walter Scott in 
France ingeniously, and somewhat whimsically traced to 
Buonaparte. He did not like the dissipation and frivolity of 
Paris, and relegated the country-gentlemen to their seats 
for eight months in the year. Here they yawn and gasp for 
breath, and would not know what to do without the aid of 
the author of Waverley. They ask impatiently when the 
*' Tales of the Crusaders " will be out; and what you think 
of " Red-gauntlet ?" To the same cause is to be attributed the 
change of manners. Messieurs, je veux des mceurs, was con- 
stantly in the French Ruler's mouth. Manners, according to 
my informant, were necessary to consolidate his plans of ty- 
ranny; — how, I do not kn6w. Forty years ago no man was ever 
seen in company with Madame sa femme. A Comedy was 
written on the ridicule of a man being in love with his wife. 
Now he must be with her three-and- twenty hours out of the 
four-and-twenty ; it is from this that they date the decline of 
happiness in France ; and the unfortunate couple endeavour 
to pass the time and get rid o^ ennui as well as they can, by 
reading the Scotch Novels together. 



286 ON OLD ENGLISH 

There was advertised not long ago in Paris an 
Elegy on the Death of Lord Byron, by his friend 
Sir Thomas More, — evidently confounding the 
living; bard with the old statesman. It is thus 
the French in their light, salient way transpose 
every thing. The mistake is particularly ludi- 
crous to those who have ever seen Mr. Moore, 
or Mr. Shee's portrait of him in Mr. Hookham's 
shop, and who chance to see Holbein's head of 
Sir Thomas More in the Louvre. There is tlie 
same difference that there is between a surly 
English mastiff and a little lively French pug. 
Mr. Moore's face is gay and smiling enough, old 
Sir Thomas's is severe, not to say sour. It 
seems twisted awry with difficult questions, and 
bursting asunder with a ponderous load of mean- 
> ing. Mr. Moore has nothing of this painful and 

O . puritanical cast. He floats idly and fantasti- 
^ cally on the top of the literature of his age; his 

-i renowned and almost forgotten namesake has 

nearly sunk to the bottom of his. Tiie author 
of Utopia was no flincher, he was a martyr to his 
opinions, and was burnt to death for them — the 
(~x most heroic action of Mr. Moore's life is, the 

having burnt the Memoirs of his friend ! 

The expression in Holbein's pictures conveys a 
faithful but not very favourable notion of the 
literary character of that period. It is painful, 






WRITERS AND SPEAKERS. 287 

dry, and laboured. Learning was then an ascetic, 
but recluse and profound. You see a weight of 
thought and care in the studious heads of the 
time of the Reformation, a sincerity, an inte- 
grity, a sanctity of purpose, like that of a formal 
dedication to a religious life, or the inviolability 
of monastic vows. They had their work to do ; 
we reap the benefits of it. We skim the sur- 
face, and travel along the high road. They had 
to explore dark recesses, to dig through moun- 
tains, and make their way through pathless wil- 
dernesses. It is no wonder they looked grave 
upon it. The seriousness, indeed, amounts to 
an air of devotion ; and it has to me something 
fine, manly, and old English about it. There is a 
heartiness and determined resolution ; a willing- 
ness to contend with opposition ; a superiority 
to ease and pleasure ; some sullen pride, but no 
trifling vanity. They addressed themselves to 
study as to a duty, and were ready to " leave all 
and follow it." In the beginning of such an 
era, the difference between ignorance and learn- 
ing, between what was commonly known and 
what was possible to be known, would appear 
immense ; and no pains or time would be 
thought too great to master the difficulty. Con- 
scious of their own deficiencies and the scanty 
information of those about them, they would be 



288 ON OLD ENGLISH 

glad to look out for aids and support, and to put 
themselves apprentices to time and nature. This 
temper would lead them to exaggerate rather 
than to make light of the difficulties of their un- 
dertaking ; and would call forth sacrifices in pro- 
portion. Feeling how little they knew, they 
would be anxious to discover all that others had 
known, and instead of making a display of 
themselves, their first object would be to dispel 
the mist and darkness that surrounded them. 
They did not cull the flowers of learning, or 
pluck a leaf of laurel for their own heads, but 
tugged at the roots and very heart of their sub- 
ject, as the woodman tugs at the roots of 
the gnarled oak. The sense of the arduous- 
ness of their enterprise braced their courage, 
so that they left nothing half done. They in- 
quired de omne scihile et quihusdam aliis. They 
ransacked libraries, they exhausted authorities. 
They acquired languages, co)hsulted books, and )'^^ \ 
decyphered manuscripts. They devoured learn- 
ing, and swallowed antiquity whole, and (what 
is more) digested it. They read incessantly, 
and remembered what they read, from the 
zealous interest they took in it. Repletion is 
only bad, w^hen it is accompanied with apathy 
and want of exercise. They laboured hard, and 
shewed great activity both of reasoning and spe- 



WRITERS AND SPEAKERS. 289 

culation. Tlieir fault was that they were too 
prone to unlock the secrets of nature with the 
key of learning, and often to substitute autho- 
rity in the place of argument. They were also 
too polemical ; as was but naturally to be ex- 
pected in the first breaking up of established 
prejudices and opinions. It is curious to ob- 
serve the slow progress of the human mind in 
loosening and getting rid of its trammels, link 
by link, and how it crept on its hands and feet, 
and with its eyes bent on the ground, out of the 
cave of Bigotry, making its way through one 
dark passage after another ; those who gave up 
one half of an absurdity contending as strenu- 
ously for the remaining half, the lazy current of 
tradition stemming the tide of innovation, and 
making an endless struggle between the two. But 
in the dullest minds of this period there was a 
deference to the opinions of their leaders ; an im- 
posing sense of the importance of the subject, of 
the necessity of bringing all the faculties to bear 
upon it ; a weiglit either of armour or of inter- 
nal strength, a zeal either ^or or against; a 
head, a heart, and a hand, a holding out to the 
death for conscience sake, a strong spirit of pro- 
selytism — no flippancy, no indifference, no 
compromising, no pert shallow scepticism, but 
truth was supposed indissolubly knit to good, 

Second Series, vol. ir, U 



290 ON OLD ENGLISH 

knowledge to usefulness, and the temporal and 
eternal welfare of mankind to hang in the ba- 
lance. The pure springs of a lofty faith (so to 
speak) had not then descended by various grada- 
tions from their skyey regions and cloudy height, 
to find their level in the smooth, glittering ex- 
panse of modern philosophy, or to settle in the 
stagnant pool of stale hypocrisy ! A learned man 
of that day, if he knew no better than others, at 
least knew all that they did. He did not come 
to his subject, like some dapper barrister who 
has never looked at his brief, and trusts to the 
smartness of his wit and person for the agree- 
able effect he means to produce, but like an old 
and practised counsellor, covered over with the 
dust and cobwebs of the law. If it was a speaker 
in Parliament, he came prepared to handle his 
subject, armed with cases and precedents, the 
constitution and history of Parliament from the 
earliest period, a knowledge of the details of 
business and the local interests of the country ; 
in short, he had taken up the freedom of the 
House, and did not treat the question like a cos- 
mopolite, or a writer in a Magazine. If it were 
a divine, he knew the Scriptures and the Fa- 
thers, and the Council^ and the Commentators 
by heart, and thundered them in the ears of his 
astonished audience. Not a trim essay or a 



WRITERS AND SrEAKERS. 291 

tumid oration, patronising religion by modern 
sophisms, but the Law and the Prophets, the 
chapter and the verse. If it was a philosopher, 
Aristotle and the Schoohnen were drawn out in 
battle-array against you : — if an antiquarian, the 
Lord bless us! There is a passage in Selden's 
notes on Drayton's Poly-Olbion, in which he 
elucidates some point of topography by a refer- 
ence not only to Stowe and Holinshed and 
Camden and Saxo-Grammaticus, and Dugdale 
and several other authors that we are ac- 
quainted with, but to twenty obscure names, that 
no modern reader ever heard of; and so on 
through the notes to a folio volume, written 
apparently for relaxation. Such were the intel- 
lectual amusements of our ancestors ! Learning 
then ordinarily lay-in of folio volumes : now 
she litters octavos and duodecimos, and will 
soon, as in France, miscarry of half sheets! 
Poor Job Orton ! why should I not record a jest 
of his (perhaps the only one he ever made) em- 
blematic as it is of the living and the learning 
of the good old times ? The Rev. Job Orton 
was a Dissenting Minister in the middle of the 
last century, and had grown heavy and gouty 
by sitting long at dinner and at his studies. He 
could only get down stairs at last by spreading 
the folio volumes of Caryl's Commentaries upon 

u 2 



292 ON OLD ENGLISH 

Job on the steps and sliding down them. Sur- 
prised one day in his descent, he exclaimed, 
" You have often heard of Caryl upon Job — 
now you see Job upon Caryl ! " This same quaint- 
witted gouty old gentleman seems to have been 
one of those " superior, happy spirits," who slid 
through life on the rollers of learning, enjoying 
the good things of the world and laughing at 
them, and turning his infirmities to a livelier 
account than his patriarchal name-sake. Reader, 
didst thou ever hear either of Job Orton or of 
Caryl on Job ? I daresay not. Yet the one did 
not therefore slide down his theological staircase 
the less pleasantly ; nor did the other compile 
his Commentaries in vain ! For myself, I should 
like to browze on folios, and have to deal chiefly 
with authors that I have scarcely strength to 
lift, that are as solid as they are heavy, and if 
dull, are full of matter. It is delightful to re- 
pose on the v/isdom of the ancients ; to have 
some great name at hand, besides one's own 
initials always staring one in the face : to 
travel out of one's-self into the Chaldee, He- 
brew, and Egyptian characters ; to have the 
palm-trees waving mystically in the margin of 
the page, and the camels moving slowly on in 
the distance of three thousand years. In that 
dry desert of learning, we gather strength and 



1 



WRITERS AND SPEAKERS. ^93 

patience, and a strange and insatiable thirst of 
knowledge. The ruined monuments of anti- 
quity are also there, and the fragments of buried 
cities (under which the adder lurks) and cool 
springs, and green sunny spots, and the whirl- 
wind and the lion's roar, and the shadow of an- 
gelic wings. To those w^ho turn with superci- 
lious disgust from the ponderous tomes of scho- 
lastic learning, w^ho never felt the witchery of 
the Talmuds and the Cabbala, of the Commen- 
tators and the Schoolmen, of texts and autho- 
rities, of types and anti-types, hieroglyphics 
and mysteries, dogmas and contradictions, and 
endless controversies and doubtful labyrinths, 
and quaint traditions, I would recommend the 
lines of Warton written in a Blank Leaf of Dug- 
dale's Monasticon : 

" Deem not devoid of elegance the sage, 
By fancy's genuine feelings unbeguiled, 
Of painful pedantry the poring child, 
Who turns of these pi'oud domes the historic page, 
Now sunk by time and Henry's fiercer rage. 
Thinkst thou the warbling Muses never smiled 
On his lone hours ? Ingenuous views engage 
Histhoughts, on themes (unclassic falsely styled) 
Intent. While cloister'd piety displays 
Her mouldering scroll, the piercing eye explores 
New manners and the pomp of elder days ; 
Whence culls the pensive bard his pictured stores. 
Nor rough nor barren are the winding ways 
Of hoar Antiquity, but strewn with flowers." 



294 ON OLD ENGLISH 

This Sonnet, if it were not for a certain intri- 
cacy in the style, would be a perfect one : at 
any rate, the thought it contains is fine and 
just. Some of the caput mortuum of learning is 
a useful ballast and relief to the mind. It must 
turn back to the acquisitions of others as its 
natural sustenance and support ; facts must go 
hand in hand with feelings, or it will soon prey 
like an empty stomach on itself, or be the sport 
of the windy impertinence of ingenuity self- 
begotten. Away then with this idle cant, as if 
every thing were barbarous and without interest, 
that is not the growth of our own times and of 
our own taste ; with this everlasting evaporation 
of mere sentiment, this affected glitter of style, 
this equivocal generation of thought out of igno- 
rance and vanity, this total forgetfulness of the 
subject, and displiiy of the writer, as if every 
possible train of speculation must originate in 
the pronoun /, and the world had nothing to do 
but to look on and admire. It will not do to 
consider all truth or good as a reflection of our 
own pampered and inordinate self-love ; to re- 
solve the solid fabric of the universe into an 
essence of Della-Cruscan witticism and conceit. 
The perpetual search after effect, the prema- 
ture and effeminate indulgence of nervous sen- 
sibility, defeats and wears itself out. We cannot 



WRITERS AND SPEAKERS. 295 

make an abstraction of the intellectual ore from 
the material dross, of feelings from objects, of re- 
sults from causes. We must get at the kernel of 
pleasure through the dry and hard husk of truth. 
We must wait nature's time. These false births 
weaken the constitution. It has been observed 
that men of science live longer than mere men 
of letters. They exercise their understandings 
more, their sensibility less. There is with them 
less wear and tear of the irritable fibre, which 
is not shattered and worn to a very thread. On 
the hill of science, they keep an eye intent on 
truth and fame : 

" Calm pleasures there abide, majestic pains," — 

while the man of letters mingles in the crowd 
below, courting popularity and pleasure. His 
is a frail and feverish existence accordingly, and 
he soon exhausts himself in the tormenting pur- 
suit — in the alternate excitement of his imagi- 
nation and gratification of his vanity. 

" Earth destroys 



Those raptures duly : Erebus disdains ! " 

Lord Byron appears to me to have fairly run 
himself out in his debilitating intercourse with 
the wanton Muse. He had no other idea left but 
that of himself and the public — he was uneasy un- 
less he was occupied in administering repeated 



29^ ON OLD ENGLISH 

provocatives to idle curiosity, and receiving 
strong doses of praise or censure in return : the 
irritation at last became so violent and importu- 
nate, that lie could neither keep on with it nor 
take any repose from it. The glistering orb of 
heated popularity 

" Glared round his soul and mocked his closing eye-lids." 

The successive endless Cantos of Don Juan 
were the quotidian that killed him ! — Old Sir Wal- 
ter will last long enough, stuffing his wallet and 
his " wame," as he does, with mouldy fragments 
and crumbs of comfort. He does not " spin his 
brains," but something much better. The cun- 
ning chteld, the old canfi/ gaherlanzie has got 
hold of another clue — that of nature and his- 
tory — and long may he spin it, " even to the 
crack of doom," watching the threads as they 
are about to break through his fringed eye-lids, 
catcliing a tradition in his mouth like a trap, 
and heaping his forehead with facts, till it shoves 
up the Baronet*s blue bonnet into a Baron's 
crown, and then will the old boy turn in his 
chair, rest his chin upon his crutch, give a last 
look to the Highlands^ and with his latest breath, 
thank God that he leaves the world as he found it! 
And so he will pretty nearly with one exception, 
the Scotch Novels. They ai'e a small addition 
to this round world of ours. We and they shall 



WRITERS AND SPEAKERS. 297 

jog on merrily together for a century or two, I 
hope, till some future Lord Byron asks, " Who 
reads Sir Walter Scott now ?" There is the last 
and almost worst of them. I would take it with 
me into a wilderness. Three pages of poor Peter 
Peebles will at any time redeem three volumes 
of Red-Gauntlet. And Nanty Ewart is even 
better with his steady walk upon the deck of 
the Jumping Jenny and his story of himself, 
" and her whose foot (whether he came in or 
went out) was never off the stair." There you 
came near me, there you touched me, old true- 
penny! And then again the catch that blind 
Willie and his wife and the boy sing in the hol- 
low of the heath — there is more mirth and heart's 
ease in it than in all Lord Byron's Don Juan, or 
Mr. Moore's Lyrics. And why ? Because the 
author is thinking of beggars and a beggar's 
brat, and not of himself while he writes it. He 
looks at nature, sees it, hears it, feels it, and be- 
lieves that it exists, before it is printed, hot- 
pressed, and labelled on the back. By the Author 
of Waverley. He does not fancy, nor would 
he for one moment have it supposed, that his 
name and fame compose all that is worth a mo- 
ment's consideration in the universe. This is 
the great secret of his writings — a perfect indif- 
ference to self. Wliether it is the same in his 



S98 ON OLD ENGLISH 

politics, I cannot say. I see no comparison be- 
tween his prose writing and Lord Byron's poems. 
The only writer that I should hesitate about 
is Wordsworth. There are thoughts and lines 
of his that to me shew as fine a mind, a subtler 
sense of beauty than any thing of Sir Walter's, 
such as those above quoted, and that other line 
in the Laodamia — 

" Elysian beauty, melancholy grace." 

I would as soon have written that line as have 
carved a Greek statue. But in this opinion I 
shall have three or four with me, and all the rest 
of the world against me. I do not dislike a 
House-of-Commons Minority in matters of taste 
— that is, one that is select, independent, and 
has a proxy from posterity. — To return to the 
question with which I set out. 

Learning is its own exceeding great reward ; 
and at the period of which we speak, it bore 
other fruits, not unworthy of it. Genius, when 
not smothered and kept down by learning, 
blazed out triumphantly over it ; and the Fancy 
often rose to a height proportioned to the depth 
to which the Understanding had struck its 
roots. After the first emancipation of the mind 
from the trammels of Papal ignorance and 
superstition, people seemed to be in a state of 
breathless wonder at the new light that was 



WRITERS AND SPEAKERS. 299 

suffered to break in upon them. They were 
startled as " at the birth of nature from the unap- 
parent deep." They seized on all objects that rose 
in view with a firm and eager grasp, in order 
to be sure whether they were imposed upon or 
not. The mind of man, "pawing to get free" 
from custom and prejudice, struggled and 
plunged, and like the fabled Pegasus, opened 
at each spring a new source of truth. Images 
were piled on heaps, as well as opinions and 
facts, the ample materials for poetry or prose, 
to which the bold hand of enthusiasm applied 
its torch, and kindled it into a flame. The ac- 
cumulation of past records seemed to form the 
frame-work of their prose, as the observation of 
external objects did of their poetry — 

" \Miose body nature was, and man the soul." 

Among poets they have to boast such names, 
for instance, as Shakespear, Spenser^ Beaumont 
and Fletcher, Marlowe, Webster, Deckar, and 
soon after, Milton ; among prose-writers, Sel- 
den. Bacon, Jeremy Taylor, Baxter, and Sir 
Thomas Brown ; for patriots, they have such 
men as Pym, Hampden, Sydney ; and for a 
witness of their zeal and piety, they have Fox's 
Book of Martyrs, instead of which we have Mr. 
Southey's Book of the Church, and a whole host 
of renegades ! Perhaps Jeremy Taylor and also 



300 ON oil) liNULISU 

Bo;uu\h>ii( :u\i\ Vlcichcv ni;iv l>o nuMitiojiotl as 
ratluM <^\oo|iliiM»s to llio i^ravitv ami sovority I 
Iia\ spokoii o\' as rharacttMMstic oC our oarliiM* 
litoratiiiv. It is triu\ thoy aro lloriii ami volup- 
tUvHis in thoir stvK\ hut thov still kccy tiuMr 
stall' apart, auil tluMX^ is au rloijuiMU't' oi' tho 
hoait aboiU thoiu, Nviiic'li sooius to uush iVtMU tlu' 
*• \n\vc well oi Faiiilish uuilclikul " 'VUc oue 
treats i^t'saoroil thiu^s with a viviiluoss auil i'cv- 
voui" as it' lie had a rovolatiou ol' tluMu : tho 
others s}H\ik ol' huniau iuterests with a touiler- 
uess as it' ni;in's uature weio ih\iuo. .loroiuv 
Tavlor's pou soouis io have heen i;uideil hy the 
very spirit ot jin auil youtli, but yet witli a seuse 
ot'wliat was due ti> the rovereuee of ai;e, auil 
** tears of pious awe, that i'eared to have otfend- 
ed." l>eaun\ont and I'letelier's lo\ e-seenes are 
like the meeting of hearts in Klysiuni. Let any 
one have dwelt on any objeet with the greatest 
fondness, let him have cherished the feeling to 
the utmost height, and have it put to the test 
in the most trying circumstances, and he will 
tind it described to the life in l>eaumont and 
Fletcher. Our modern dramatists (witii one 
exception *), appeal not to nature or the heart, 
but — to tho readers of modern poetry. \\\)rds 

* Tho aiulior of Viririnius. 



WfttTEO A%D MXAKEKi. 501 

and paper, each couleur de roue, are the two re- 
quisites oi a ikih'if/mdAe style. But tlie gl<>My 
splendour, the voluptuou% glrjw erf' the obsolete, 
old-fa«hioned writers just mentioned ha% nothing 
artificial, nothing meretricious in it. It is the 
luxuriance of natural fteiing and fancy. I should 
as soon think of accusing the summer-rofe of 
vanity for unfolding its leav« to the dawn, or 
the hawthorn that puts forth its bioHoms in die 
genial warmth of spring, (^aflfectii^ to be fioe. 
We have beard a good deal of the pulpit-eloqueDcc 
of Bossuet and other celebrated preachers of the 
time of Fenelon ; but I doubt much whether afl 
of them together could produce any mtmber of 
passages to match the best of those in the H<^ 
Living and Dying, or even Baxter's severe but 
thriUing denunciations of the iamgm&^ance sud 
Dothingiiess of hie and the certsaaty of a jaAg- 
ment to come. There is a fine portrait of duf 
last-oamed powerful controT^^aiist, with faif 
high fordiead and Uad^ Telret cap, in Calamj's 
Xon'Coiif<Himstfs Menofial, caatamD^ an ac- 
count of the Two Thousand Ejected Jiiimien 
at the Reisboratkm of Cbazks IL Thu vsi a 
proud list for Old Fngfaiid ; and the accomtt of 
their lives, their zeal, dieir Atqpeace and nfl^- 
ings ibr cooscience sake, is ooe.of the aKMt in- 
teresting cfa^iCers in the history of tfae 



302 ON OLD ENGLISH 

mind. How high it can soar in faith ! How 
nobly it can arm itself with resolution and 
fortitude! How far it can surpass itself in 
cruelty and fraud ! How incapable it seems to 
be of good, except as it is urged on by the con- 
tention with evil ! The retired and inflexible 
descendants of the Two Thousand Ejected 
Ministers and their adherents are gone with the 
spirit of persecution that gave a soul and body 
to them ; and with them, I am afraid, the spirit 
of liberty, of manly independence, and of inward 
self-respect is nearly extinguished in England. 
There appears to be no natural necessity for 
evil, but that there is a perfect indifference to 
good without it. One thing exists and has a 
value set upon it only as it has a foil in some 
other J learning is set off by ignorance, liberty 
by slavery, refinement by barbarism. The cul- 
tivation and attainment of any art or excellence 
is followed by its neglect and decay ; and even 
religion owes its zest to the spirit of contradic- 
tion ; for it flourishes most from persecution 
and hostile factions. Mr. Irvine speaks of the ^ 
great superiority of religion over every other 
motive, since it enabled its professors to *' en- 
dure having hot molten lead poured down their 
throats." He forgets that it was religion that 
poured it down their throats, and tliat this prin. 



WRITERS AND SPEAKERS. 303 

ciple, mixed with the frailty of human passion, 
has often been as ready to inflict^ as to endure. 
I could make the world good, wise, happy to- 
morrow, if, when made, it would be contented 
to remain so without the alloy of mischief, mi- 
sery, and absurdity : that is, if every possession 
did not require the principle of contrast, contra- 
diction, and excess, to enliven and set it off and 
keep it at a safe distance from sameness and in- 
sipidity. 

The different styles of art and schools of 
learning vary and fluctuate on this principle. 
After the Restoration of Charles, the grave, 
enthusiastic, puritanical, *^ prick-eared" style 
became quite exploded, and a gay and piquant 
style, the reflection of courtly conversation and 
polished manners, and borrowed from the 
French, came into fashion, and lasted till the 
Revolution. Some examples of the same thing 
were given in the time of Charles I. by Sir J. 
Suckling and others, but they were eclipsed 
and overlaid by the prevalence and splendour 
of the opposite examples. It was at its height, 
however, in the reign of the restored monarch, 
and in the witty and licentious writings of 
Wycherley, Congreve, Rochester, and Waller. 
Milton alone stood out as a partisan of the old 
Elizabethan school. Out of compliment, I sup- 



304< ON OLD ENGLISH 

pose, to the Houses of Orange and Hanover, 
we sobered down, after the Revolution, into a 
strain of greater demureness, and into a Dutch 
and German fidelity of imitation of domestic 
manners and individual character, as in the 
periodical Essayists, and in the works of Field- 
ing and Hogarth. Yet, if the two last-named 
painters of manners are not English, who are 
so? I cannot give up my partiality to them for 
the fag-end of a theory. They have this mark 
of genuine English intellect, that they con- 
stantly combine truth of external observation 
with strength of internal meaning. The Dutch 
are patient observers of nature, but want cha- 
racter and feeling. The French, as far as we 
have imitated them, aim only at the pleasing, 
and glance over the surfaces of words and 
things. Thus has our literature descended 
(according to the foregoing scale) from the 
tone of the pulpit to that of the court or draw- 
ing-room, from the drawing-room into the par- 
lour, and from thence, if some critics say true, 
into the kitchen and ale-house. It may do 
even worse than that ! 

French literature has undergone great changes 
in like manner, and was supposed to be at its 
height in the time of Louis XIV. We sympa- 
thise less, however, with the pompous and set 



WRITERS AND SPEAKERS. 305 

speeches in the tragedies of llacine and Cor- 
ncille, or in the serious comedies of Moliere, 
than we do with the grotesque farces of the 
latter, with the exaggerated descriptions and 
humour of Rabelais (whose wit was a madness, 
a drunkenness), or with the accomplished huma- 
nity, the easy style, and gentlemanly and scho- 
lar-like sense of Montaigne. But these we con- 
sider as in a great measure English, or as what the 
old French character inclined to, before it was 
corrupted by courts and academies of criticism. 
The exquisite graces of La Fontaine, the indif- 
ferent sarcastic tone of Voltaire and Le Sage, 
who make light of every thing, and who produce 
their greatest effects with the most impercepti- 
ble and rapid touches, we give wholly to the 
constitutional genius of the French, and despair 
of imitating. Perhaps in all this we proceed by 
guess-work at best. Nations (particularly rival 
nations) are bad judges of one another's litera- 
ture or physiognomy. The French certainly do 
not vmderstand us : it is most probable we do 
not understand them. How slowly great works, 
great names make their way across the Channel ! 
M. Tracey's " Ideologie" has not yet been heard 
of among us, and a Frenchman who asks if you 
have read it, almost subjects himself to the sus- 
picion of being the author. They have also 

VOL. II. X 



306 ON OLD ENGLISH 

their little sects and parties in literature, anil 
though they do not nickname and vilify their 
rivals, as is done with us (thanks to the national 
politeness) ; yet if you do not belong to the pre- 
vailing party, they very civilly suppress all men- 
tion of you, your name is not noticed in tlie 
Journals, nor your work inquired for at the 
shops *. 

Those who explain every thing by final causes 
(that is, who deduce causes from effects) might 
avail themselves of their privilege on this occa- 
sion. There must be some checks to the exces- 
sive increase of literature as of population, or 
we should be overwhelmed by it ; and they are 
happily found in the envy, dulness, prejudices, 
and vanity of mankind. While we think we are 
weighing the merits of an author, we are indulg- 
ing our own national pride, indolence, or ill- 
humour, by laughing at what we do not under- 
stand, or condemning what thwarts our inclina- 
tions. The French reduce all philosophy to a 

* In Paris, to be popular, you must wear out, they say, 
twenty pair of pumps and twenty pair of silk stockings, in calls 
upon the different Newspaper Editors. In England, you have 
only to give in your resignation at the Treasury, and you re- 
ceive your passport to the John Bull Parnassus j otherwise you 
are shut out and made a bye word. Literary jealousy and 
littleness is still the motive, politics the pretext, and black- 
guardism the mode. 



WRITERS AND SPEAKERS. 307 

set of agreeable sensations : the Germans reduce 
the commonest tilings to an abstruse metaphy- 
sics. The one are a mystical, the other a super- 
ficial people. Both proceed by the severest 
logic ; but the real guide to their conclusions 
is the proportion of phlegm or mercury in their 
dispositions. V/hen we appeal to a man's rea- 
son against his inclinations, we speak a lan- 
guage without meaning, and which he w^ll not 
understand. Different nations have favourite 
modes of feeling and of accounting for things 
to please themselves and fall in with their ordi- 
nary habits ; and our different systems of philo- 
sophy, literature, and art meet, contend, and 
repel one another on the confines of opinion, 
because their elements will not amalgamate 
with our several humours, and all the while we 
fancy we settle the question by an abstract ex- 
ercise of reason, and by laying down some 
refined and exclusive standard of taste. There 
is no great harm in this delusion, nor can there 
be much in seeing through it ; for we shall still 
go on just as we did before *. 

* Buonaparte got a committee of the French Institute to 
draw up a report of the Kantean Philosophy ; he might as well 
have ordered them to draw up a report of the geography of 
the moon. It is difficult for an Englishman to understand 
Kant ; for a Frenchman impossible. The latter has a certain 
routine of phrases into which his ideas run habitually as into 
a mould, and you cannot get him out of them. 

X 2 



ESSAY XI. 

MADAME PASTA AND MADEMOISELLE "^ " 

MARS. 



ESSAY XI. 

MADAME PASTA AND MADEMOISELLE 
MARS. 



I LIKED Mademoiselle Mars exceedingly well, 
till I saw Madame Pasta whom I liked so much 
better. The reason is, the one is the perfection 
of French, the other of natural acting. Madame 
Pasta is Italian, and she might be English — 
Mademoiselle Mars belongs emphatically to her 
country ; the scene of her triumphs is Paris. 
She plays naturally too, but it is French nature. 
Let me explain. She has, it is true, none of the 
vices of the French theatre, its extravagance, 
its flutter, its grimace, and affectation, but her 
merit in these respects is as it were negative, 
and she seems to put an artificial restraint upon 
herself. There is still a pettiness, an attention 
to ffiinutice, an etiquette, a mannerism about her 
acting : she does not give an entire loose to her 
feelings, or trust to the unpremeditated and 
habitual impulse of her situation. She has 
greater elegance, perhaps, and precision of style 
than Madame Pasta, but not half her boldness 



312 MADAME PASTA AND 

or grace. In short, every thing she does is 
voluntary, instead of being spontaneous. It 
seems as if she might be acting from marginal 
directions to her part. When not speaking, 
she stands in general quite still. When she 
speaks, slie extends first one hand and then the 
other, in a way that you can foresee every time 
she does so, or in which a machine might be 
elaborately constructed to develope different 
successive movements. When she enters, she 
advances in a straight line from the other end 
to the middle of the stage with the slight un- 
varying trip of her country-women, and then 
stops short, as if under the dn]\o£ aj'ugal-man. 
When she speaks, she articulates with perfect 
clearness and propriety, but it is the facility of 
a singer executing a difficult passage. The case 
is that of habit, not of nature. Whatever she 
does, is right in the intention, and she takes care 
not to carry it too far ; but she appears to say 
beforehand, " This 1 will do, I must not do 
that," Her acting is an inimitable study or 
consummate rehearsal of the part as a prepara- 
tory performance : she hardly yet appears to 
have assumed the character ; something more is 
wanting, and that something you find in Madame 
Pasta. If Mademoiselle Mars has to smile, a 
slight and evanescent expression of pleasure 



MADEMOISELLE MARS. 313 

passes across the surface of her face ; twinkles 
in her eyelids, dimples her chin, compresses her 
lips, and plays on each feature : when Madame 
Pasta smiles, a beam of joy seems to have struck 
upon her heart, and to irradiate her counte- 
nance. Her whole face is bathed and melted 
in expression, instead of its glancing from par- 
ticular points. When she speaks, it is in music. 
When she moves, it is without thinking whe- 
ther she is graceful or not. When she weeps, 
it is a fountain of tears, not a few trickling 
drops, that glitter and vanish the instant after. 
The French themselves admire Madame Pasta's 
acting, (who indeed can help it?) but they go 
away thinking how much one of her simple 
movements would be improved by their extra- 
vagant gesticulations, and that her noble, natu- 
ral expression would be the better lor having 
twenty airs of mincing affectation added to it. 
In her Nina there is a listless vacancy, an awk- 
ward grace, a want of hienseance^ that is like a 
child or a changeling, and that no French actress 
would venture upon for a moment, lestshe should 
be suspected of a want of esprit or of bon mien, 
A French actress always plays before the court ; 
she is always in the presence of an audience, with 
whom she first settles her personal pretensions 
by a significant hint or side-glance, and then as 



S14" MADAME PASTA AND 

much nature and simplicity as you please. Poor 
Madame Pasta thinks no more of the audience 
than Nina herself would, if she could be ob- 
served by stealth, or than the fawn that wounded 
comes to drink, or the flower that droops in the 
sun or wags its sweet head in the gale. She 
gives herself entirely up to the impression of 
the part, loses her power over herself, is led 
away by her feelings either to an expression of 
stupor or of artless joy, borrows beauty from 
deformity, charms unconsciously, and is trans- 
formed into the very being she represents. She 
does not act the character — she is it, looks it, 
breathes it. She does not study for an effect, 
but strives to possess herself of the feeling 
which should dictate what she is to do, and 
which gives birth to the proper degree of grace, 
dignity, ease, or force. She makes no point all 
the way through, but her whole style and man- 
ner is in perfect keeping, as if she were really a 
love-sick, care-crazed maiden, occupied with 
one deep sorrow, and who had no other idea or 
interest in the world. This alone is true nature 
and true art. The rest is sophistical ; and 
French art is not free from the imputation ; it 
never places an implicit faith in nature but al- 
ways mixes up a certain portion of art, that is, 
of consciousness and affectation with it. 1 shall 



MADEMOISELLE MARS. 315 

illustrate this subject from a passage in Shake- 
spear. 

" Polixenes. — Shepherdess, 
( A fair one arc you) well you fit our ages 
With flow'rs of winter. 

Perdita. — Sir, the year growing ancient. 
Not yet on summer's death, nor on the birth 
Of trembling winter, the fairest flowers o' th' season 
Are our carnations and streak'd gilliflowcrs, 
Which some call nature's bastards ; of that kind 
Our rustic garden's barren, and I care not 
To get slips of them. 

Polix. — Wherefore, gentle maiden, 
Do you neglect them ? 

Perdita. — For I have heard it said, 
There is an art which in their piedness shares 
With great creating nature. 

Polix. — Say, there be. 
Yet nature is made better by no mean, 
But nature makes that mean ; so o'er that art. 
Which you say adds to nature, is an art. 
That nature makes ; you see, sweet maid, we marry 
A gentle scyon to the wildest stock. 
And make conceive a bark of baser kind 
By bud of nobler race. This is an art, 
Which does mend nature, change it rather ; but 
The art itself is nature. 

Perdita. — So it is. 

Polix. — Then make your garden rich in gilliflowcrs. 
And do not call them bastards. 

Perdita. — I'll not put 
A dibble in earth, to set one slip of them ; 
No more than, were I painted, I should wish 
This youth to say, 'twere well ; and only therefore 
Desire to breed by mo. '—Winters Tale, Act IV. 



316 MADAME PASTA AND 

Madame Pasta appears to be of Perdita's mind 
in respect to her acting, and I applaud her reso- 
lution heartily. We English are charged un- 
justly with wishing to disparage the French : 
we cannot help it ; there is a natural antipathy 
between the two nations. Thus unable to deny 
tlieir theatrical merit, we are said insidiously to 
have invented the appellation, French nature^ to 
explain away or throw a stigma on their most 
successful exertions : 

" Though that their art be nature, 



We throw such changes of vexation on it, 
As it may lose some colour." 

The English are a heavy people, and the most 
like a stone of all others. The French are a 
lively people, and more like a feather. They are 
easily moved and by slight causes, and each 
part of the impression has its separate effect : 
the English, if they are moved at all (which is a 
work of time and difficulty), are moved alto- 
gether, or in mass, and the impression, if it takes 
root, strikes deep and spreads wide, involving a 
number of other impressions in it. If a frag- 
ment of a rock wrenched from its place rolls 
slowly at first, gathers strength and fury as it 
proceeds, tears up every thing in its way, and 
thunders to the plain below, there is something- 
noble and imposing in the sight, for it is an image 



MADEMOISELLE MARS. 317 

of our own headlong passions and the increas- 
ing vehemence of our desires. But we hate to 
see a feather launched into the air and driven 
back on the hand that throws it, shifting its 
course with every puff of wind, and carried no 
fartlier by the strongest than by the sHghtest 
impulse. It is provoking (is it not ?) to see the 
strength of the blow always defeated by the very 
insignificance and want of resistance in the ob- 
ject, and the impulse received never answering 
to the impulse given. It is the very same flut- 
tering, fidgetting, tantalizing, inconsequential, 
ridiculous process that annoys us in the French 
character. There seems no wa^wra/ correspond- 
ence between objects and feelings, between 
things and words. By yielding to every impulse 
at once, nothing produces a powerful or perma- 
nent impression ; nothing produces an aggre- 
gate impression, for every part tells separately. 
Every idea turns off to something else, or back 
upon itself; there is no progress made, no blind 
impulse, no accumulation of imagination with 
circumstances, no absorption of all other feel- 
ings in one overwhelming one, that is, no keep- 
ing, no momentum^ no integrity, no totality, no 
inflexible sincerity of purpose, and it is this re- 
solution of the sentiments into their detached 
points and first impressions, so that they do not 



318 MADAME PASTA AND 

take an entire and involuntary hold of them, but 
either they can throw them off from their light- 
ness, or escape from them by reason of their mi- 
iRiteness, that we English complain of as Frencli 
nature or a want of nature, for by nature is only 
meant that the mind identifies itself with some- 
thing so as to be no longer master of itself, 
and the French mind never identifies itself 
with any thing, but always has its own con- 
sciousness, its own affectation, its own grati- 
fication, its own slippery inconstancy or im- 
pertinent prolixity interposed between the ob- 
ject and the impression. It is this theatrical or 
artificial nature with which we cannot and will 
not sympathise, because it circumscribes the 
truth of things and the capacities of the human 
mind within the petty round of vanity, indiffer- 
ence, and physical sensations, stunts the growth 
of imagination, effaces the broad light of nature, 
and requires us to look at all things through the 
prism of their petulance and self-conceit. The 
French in a word leave sincerity out of their 
nature (not moral but imaginative sincerity) cut 
down the varieties of feeling to their own nar- 
row and superficial standard, and having clipped 
and adulterated the current coin of expression, 
would pass it off as sterling gold. We cannot 
make an exchange with them. They are affect- 
ed by things in a different manner from us, not 



MADEMOISELLE MARS. 319 

in a different degree ; and a mutual understand- 
ing is hopeless. We have no dislike to foreigners 
as such : on the contrary, a rage for foreign 
artists and works of art is one of our foibles. 
But if we give up our national pride, it must be 
to our taste and understandings. Nay, we adopt 
the manners and the fashions of the French, 
their dancing and their cooking, — not their mu- 
sic, not tlieir painting, not their poetry, not 
their metaphysics, not their style of acting. If 
we are sensible of our own stupidity, we cannot 
admire their vivacity; if we are sick of our own 
awkwardness, we like it better than their grace ; 
we cannot part with our grossness for their re- 
finement; if we would be glad to have our 
lumpish clay animated, it must be with true 
Promethean heat, not with painted phosphorus : 
they are not the Frankensteins that must per- 
form this feat. Who among us in reading Schil- 
ler's Robbers for the first time ever asked if it 
was German or not ? Who in reading Klop- 
stock's Messiah did not object that it was Ger- 
man, not because it was German, but because it 
was heavy ; that is, because the imagination and 
the heart do not act like a machine, so as to be 
wound up or let down by the pulleys of the will ? 
Do not the French complain (and complain 
justly), that a picture is English, when it is 



320 MADAME PASTA AND 

coarse and unfinished, and leaves out the details 
which are one part of nature ? Do not the Eng- 
lish remonstrate against this defect too, and 
endeavour to cure it ? But it may be said we 
relish Schiller, because he is barbarous, violent, 
and like Shakespear. We have the Cartoons of 
Raphael then, and the Elgin marbles ; and we 
profess to admire and understand these too, and 
I think without any affectation. The reason is 
that there is no affectation in them. We like 
those noble outlines of the human face at 
Hampton Court ; the sustained dignity of the 
expression ; the broad, ample folds of the dra- 
pery ; the bold, massive limbs ; there is breath 
and motion in them, and we would willingly be 
so transformed and spiritualised : but we do not 
want to have our heavy, stupid faces flittered 
away into a number of glittering points or trans- 
fixed into a smooth petrifaction on French 
canvas. Our faces, if wanting in expression, 
have a settled purpose in them ; are as solid as 
they are stupid ; and we are at least flesh and 
blood. We also like the sway of the limbs and 
negligent grandeur of the Elgin marbles ; in 
spite of their huge weight and manly strength, 
they have the buoyancy of a wave of the sea, 
with all the ease and softness of flesh : they 
fall into attitudes of themselves : but if they 



MADEMOISELLE MARS. 351 

were put into attitudes by the genius of Opera- 
dancing, we should feel no disposition to imitate 
or envy them, any more than we do the Zephyr 
and Flora graces of French statuary. We 
prefer a single head of Chantry's to a quarry of 
French sculpture. The English are a modest 
people, except in comparing themselves with 
their next neighbours, and nothing provokes 
their pride in this case, so much as the self- 
sufficiency of the latter. When Madame Pasta 
walks in upon the stage, and looks about her 
with the same unconsciousness or timid won- 
der as the young stag in the forest ; when she 
moves her limbs as carelessly as a tree its 
branches ; when she unfolds one of her divine 
expressions of countenance, which reflect the 
inmost feelings of the soul, as the calm, deep 
lake reflects the face of heaven ; do we not 
sufficiently admire her, do we not wish her 
ours, and feel, with the same cast of thought 
and character, a want of glow, of grace, and 
ease in the expression of what we feel ? We 
bow, like Guiderius and Arviragus in the cave 
when they saw Imogen, as to a thing superior. 
On the other hand, when Mademoiselle Mars 
comes on the stage, something in the manner of 
a fantoccini figure slid along on a wooden frame^ 
and making directly for the point at which 

VOL. II. Y 



322 MADAME PASTA AND 

her official operations commence — when her 
face is puckered into a hundred little expres- 
sions like the wrinkles on the skin of a bowl of 
cream, set in a window to cool, her eyes peer- 
ing out with an ironical meaning, her nose 
pointing it, and her lips confirming it with a 
dry pressure — we admire indeed, we are de- 
lighted, we may envy, but we do not sympathise 
or very well know what to make of it. We are 
not electrified, as in the former instance, but 
animal-magnetised*. We can manage pretty 
well with any one feeling or expression (like a 
clown that must be taught his letters one at a 
time) if it keeps on in the same even course, 
that expands and deepens by degrees, but we 
are distracted and puzzled, or at best only 
amused with that sort of expression which is 
hardly itself for two moments together, that 
shifts from point to point, that seems to have no 
place to rest on, no impulse to urge it forward, 
and might as well be twenty other things at the 

* Even her jexiste in Valeria (when she first acquires the 
use of sight) is pointed like an epigram, and^2<^ in italics^ 
like a technical or metaphysical distinction, instead of being 
a pure effusion of joy. Accordingly a French pit-critic took 
up the phrase, insisting that to exist was common to all things, 
and asked what the expression was in the original German. 
This treatment of passion is topical and extraneous, and sel- 
dom strikes at the seat of the disorder, the heart. 



MADEMOISELLE MARS. 3^3 

same time — where tears come so easily they can 
hardly be real, where smiles are so playful they 
appear put on, where you cannot tell what you 
are to beheve, for the parties themselves do not 
know w^hether they are in jest or earnest, where 
the whole tone is ironical, conventional, and 
where the difference between nature and art is 
nearly imperceptible. This is what we mean 
by French nature, viz. that the feelings and 
ideas are so slight and discontinuous that they 
can be changed for others like a dress or vizor ; 
or else, to make up for want of truth and breadth, 
are caricatured into a mask. This is the defect of 
their tragedy, and the defect and excellence of 
their comedy ; the one is a pompous abortion, 
the other ayac-A7'mi/e of life, almost too close to 
be agreeable. A French comic actor might be 
supposed to have left his shop for half an hour 
to shew himself upon a stage — there is no dif- 
ference, worth speaking of, between the man 
and the actor — whether on the stage or at 
home, he is equally full of gesticulation, equally 
voluble, and without meaning — as their tragic 
actors are solemn puppets, moved by rules, 
pulled by wires, and with their mouths stuffed 
with rant and bombast. This is the harm that 
can be said of them : they themselves are doubt- 
less best acquainted with the good, and are not 

y2 



324> MADAME PASTA AND 

too diffident to tell it. Though other people 
abuse them, they can still praise themselves ! 
I once knew a French lady who said all manner 
of good things and forgot them the next mo- 
ment ; who maintained an argument with great 
wit and eloquence, and presently after changed 
sides, without knowing that she had done so ; 
who invented a story and believed it on the spot ; 
who wept herself and made you weep with the 
force of her descriptions, and suddenly drying 
her eyes, laughed at you for looking grave. Is 
not this like acting ? Yet it was not affected in 
her, but natural, involuntary, incorrigible. The 
hurry and excitement of her natural spirits was 
like a species of intoxication, or she resembled a 
child in thoughtlessness and incoherence. She 
was a Frenchwoman. It was nature, but nature 
that had nothing to do with truth or con- 
sistency. 

In one of the Paris Journals lately, there was 
a criticism on two pictures by Girodet of Bon- 
champs and Cathelineau, Vendean chiefs. The 
paper is well written, and points out the defects 
of the portraits very fairly and judiciously. 
These persons are there called " Illustrious Ven- 
deans." The dead dogs of 1812 are the illus- 
trious Vendeans of 1824. Monsieur Chateau- 
briand will have it so, and the French are too 



MADEMOISELLE MARS. 325 

polite a nation to contradict him. They split 
on this rock of complaisance, surrendering every 
principle to the fear of giving offence, as we do 
on the opposite one of party-spirit and rancorous 
hostility, sacrificing the best of causes, and our 
best friends to the desire of giving offence, to 
the indulgence of our spleen, and of an ill- 
tongue. We apply a degrading appellation, or 
bring an opprobrious charge against an indivi- 
dual ; and such is our tenaciousness of the pain- 
ful and disagreeable, so fond are we of brooding 
over grievances, so incapable are our imagina- 
tions of raising themselves above the lowest 
scurrility or the dirtiest abuse, that should the 
person attacked come out an angel from the 
contest, the prejudice against him remains 
nearly the same as if the charge had been fully 
proved. An unpleasant association has been 
created, and this is too delightful an exercise of 
the understanding with the English public easily 
to be parted with. John Bull would as soon 
give up an estate as a bug-bear. Having been 
once galled, they are not soon ungulled. They 
are too knowing for that. Nay, they resent the 
attempt to undeceive them as an injury. The 
French apply a brilliant epithet to the most vul- 
nerable characters ; and thus gloss over a life of 
treachery or infamy. With them the immediate 



326 MADAME PASTA AND 

or last impression is every thing : with us, the 
first, if it is sufficiently strong and gloomy, never 
wears out ! The French critic observes that M. 
Girodet has given General Bon champs, though 
in a situation of great difficulty and danger, a 
calm and even smiling air, and that the portrait 
of Cathelineau, instead of a hero, looks only like 
an angry peasant. In fact, the lips in the first 
portrait are made of marmalade, the complexion 
is cosmetic, and the smile ineffably engaging ; 
while the eye of the peasant Cathehneau darts a 
beam of light, such as no eye, however illustri- 
ous, was ever illumined with. But so it is, the 
Senses, like a favourite lap-dog, are pampered 
and indulged at any expence : the Imagination, 
like a gaunt hound, is starved and driven away. 
Danger and death, and ferocious courage and stern 
fortitude, however the subject may exact them, 
are uncourtly topics and kept out of sight : but 
smiling lips and glistening eyes are pleasing ob- 
jects, and there you find them. The style of 
portrait requires it. It is of this varnish and 
glitter of sentiment that we complain (perhaps 
it is no business of ours) as what must forever 
intercept the true feeling and genuine rendering 
of nature in French art, as what makes it spuri- 
ous and counterfeit, and strips it of simplicity, 
, force and grandeur. Whatever pleases, what- 



MADEMOISELLE MARS. 3^7 

ever strikes, holds out a temptation to the 
French artist too strong to be resisted, and there 
is too great a sympathy in the public mind with 
this view of the subject, to quarrel with or se- 
verely criticise what is so congenial with its own 
feelings. A premature and superficial sensibi- 
lity is the grave of French genius and of French 
taste. Beyond the momentary impulse of a 
lively organisation, all the rest is mechanical 
and pedantic ; they give you rules and theories 
for truth and nature, the Unities for poetry, and 
the dead body for the living soul of art. They 
colour a Greek statue ill and call it a picture : 
they paraphrase a Greek tragedy, and overload 
it with long-winded speeches, and think they 
have a national drama of their own. Any other 
people would be ashamed of such preposterous 
pretensions. In invention, they do not get be- 
yond models ; in imitation, beyond details. 
Their microscopic vision hinders them from 
seeing nature. I observed two young students 
the other day near the top of Montmartre, 
making oil sketches of a ruinous hovel in one 
corner of the road. Paris lay below, glittering 
grey and gold (like a spider's web) in the setting 
sun, which shot its slant rays upon their shin- 
ing canvas, and they were busy in giving the 
finishing touches. The little outhouse was in 



328 MAIlAMK PASTA AND 

itself picturesque enough: it was covered with 
moss, which hung clown in a sort of drooping 
form as the rain had streamed down it, and the 
walls were loose and crumbling in pieces. Our 
artists had repaired every thing : not a stone 
was out of its place : no traces were left of the 
winter's flaw in the pendent moss. One would 
think the bricklayer and gardener had been 
regularly set to work to do away every thing 
like sentiment or keeping in the object before 
them. Oh, Paris ! it was indeed on this thy 
weak side (thy inability to connect any two ideas 
into one) that thy barbarous and ruthless foes 
entered in ! — 

The French have a great dislike to any thing 
obscure. They cannot bear to suppose for a 
moment there should be any thing they do not 
understand : they are shockingly afraid of being 
mystified. Hence they have no idea either of 
mental or aerial perspective. Every thing must 
be distinctly made out and in the foreground ; 
for if it is not so clear that they can take it up 
bit by bit, it is wholly lost upon them, and they 
turn away as from an unmeaning blank. This 
is the cause of the stiff, unnatural look of their 
portraits. No allowance is made for the veil 
that shade as well as an oblique position casts 
over the different parts of the face ; every fea- 



MADEMOISELLE MARS. 329 

ture, and every part of every feature is given 
with the same flat effect, and it is owing to this 
perverse fidelity of detail, that that which is 
literally true, is naturally false. The side of a 
face seen in perspective does not present so 
many markings as the one that meets your eye 
full : but if it is put into the vice of French por- 
trait, wrenched round by incorrigible affectation 
and conceit (that insist upon knowing all that is 
there, and set it down formally, though it is not 
to be seen), what can be the result, but that the 
portrait will look like a head stuck in a vice, 
will be flat, hard, and finished, will have the ap- 
pearance of reality and at the same time look 
like paint; in short, will be a French portrait? 
That is, the artist, from a pettiness of view and 
want of more enlarged and liberal notions of 
art, comes forward not to represent nature, but 
like an impertinent commentator to explain 
what she has left in doubt, to insist on that 
which she passes over or touches only slightly, 
to throw a critical light on what she casts into 
shade, and to pick out the details of what she 
blends into masses. I wonder they allow the 
existence of the term clair-ohscur at all, but it 
is a word ; and a word is a thing they can repeat 
and remember. A French gentleman formerly 
asked me what I thought of a landscape in their 



330 MADAME PASTA AND 

Exhibition. I said I thought it too clear. He 
made answer that he should have conceived that 
to be impossible. I replied, that what I meant 
was, that the parts of the several objects were 
made out with too nearly equal distinctness all 
over the picture ; that the leaves of the trees in 
shadow were as distinct as those in light, the 
branches of the trees at a distance as plain as of 
those near. The perspective arose only from 
the diminution of objects, and there was no in- 
terposition of air. I said, one could not see the 
leaves of a tree a mile off, but this, I added, 
appertained to a question in metaphysics. He 
shook his head, thinking that a young English- 
man could know as little of abstruse philosophy 
as of fine art, and no more was said. I owe to 
this gentleman (whose name was Merrimee, and 
who I understand is still living,) a grateful sense 
of many friendly attentions and many useful 
suggestions, and I take this opportunity of ac- 
knowledging my obligations. 

Some one was observing of Madame Pasta*s 
acting, that its chief merit consisted in its being 
natural. To which it was replied, " Not so, for 
that there was an ugly and a handsome nature." 
There is an old proverb, that " Home is home, 
be it never so homely :" and so it may be said 
of nature j that whether ugly or handsome, it is 



MADEMOISELLE MARS. 831 

nature still. Besides beauty, there is truth, 
which is always one principal thing. It doubles 
the effect of beauty, wiiich is mere affectation 
without it, and even reconciles us to deformity. 
Nature, the truth of nature in imitation, denotes 
a given object, a "foregone conclusion" in 
reality, to which the artist is to conform in his 
copy. In nature real objects exist, real causes 
act, which are only supposed to act in art ; and 
it is in the subordination of the uncertain and 
superficial combinations of fancy to the more 
stable and powerful law of reality that the per- 
fection of art consists. A painter may arrange 
fine colours on his palette ; but if he merely 
does this, he does nothing. It is accidental or 
arbitrary. The difficulty and the charm of the 
combination begins with the truth of imitation, 
that is, with the resemblance to a given object in 
nature, or in other words, with the strength, co- 
herence, and justness of our impressions, which 
must be verified by a reference to a known and 
determinate class of objects as the test. Art is so 
far the developement or the communication of 
knowledge, but there can be no knowledge un- 
less it be of some given or standard object which 
exists independently of the representation and 
bends the will to an obedience to it. The 
strokes of the pencil are what the artist pleases, 



332 MADAME PASTA AND 

are mere idleness and caprice without mean- 
ing, unless they point to nature. Then they are 
right or wrong, true or false, as they follow in 
her steps and copy her style. Art must anchor 
in nature, or it is the sport of every breath of 
folly. Natural objects convey given or intelli- 
gible ideas which art embodies and represents, 
or it represents nothing, is a mere chimera or 
bubble ; and, farther, natural objects or events 
cause certain feelings, in expressing which art 
manifests its power, and genius its prerogative. 
The capacity of expressing these movements of 
passion is in proportion to the power with which 
they are felt ; and this is the same as sympathy 
with the human mind placed in actual situations, 
and influenced by the real causes that are sup- 
posed to act. Genius is the power which 
equalises or identifies the imagination with the 
reality or with nature. Certain events happening 
to us naturally produce joy, others sorrow, and 
these feelings, if excessive, lead to other conse- 
quences, such as stupor or ecstacy, and express 
themselves by certain signs in the countenance 
or vpice or gestures ; and we admire and ap- 
plaud an actress accordingly, who gives these 
tones and gestures as they would follow in the 
order of things, because we then know that her 
mind has been affected in like manner, that she 



MADEMOISELLE MAUS. SS3 

enters deeply into the resources of nature, and 
understands the riches of the human heart. For 
nothing else can impel and stir her up to the 
imitation of the truth. The way in which real 
causes act upon the feelings is not arbitrary, is 
not fanciful ; it is as true as it is powerful and 
unforeseen ; the effects can only be similar when 
the exciting causes have a correspondence with 
each other, and there is nothing like feeling but 
feeling. The sense of joy can alone produce 
the smile of joy ; and in proportion to the sweet- 
ness, the unconsciousness, and the expansion of 
tlie last, we may be sure is the fulness and sin- 
cerity of the heart from which it proceeds. The 
elements of joy at least are there, in their inte- 
grity and perfection. The death or absence of a 
beloved object is nothing as a word, as a mere 
passing thought, till it comes to be dwelt upon, 
and we begin to feel the revulsion, the long 
dreary separation, the stunning sense of the 
blow to our happiness, as we should in reality. 
The power of giving this sad and bewildering 
effect of sorrow on the stage is derived from the 
force of sympathy with what we should feel in 
reality. That is, a great histrionic genius is one 
that approximates the effects of words, or of sup- 
posed situations on the mind, most nearly to the 
deep and vivid effect of real and inevitable ones. 



334f M. PASTA AND M. MARS. 

.Toy produces tears : the violence of passion turns 
to childish weakness ; but this could not be fore- 
seen by study, nor taught by rules, nor mimicked 
by observation. Natural acting is therefore fine, 
because it implies and calls forth the most va- 
ried and strongest feelings that the supposed cha- 
racters and circumstances can possibly give birth 
to : it reaches the height of the subject. The 
conceiving or entering into a part in this sense 
is every thing : the acting follows easily and of 
course. But art without nature is a nick-name, 
a word without meaning, a conclusion without 
any premises to go upon. The beauty of Ma- 
dame Pasta's acting in Nina proceeds upon 
this principle. It is not what she does at any 
^particular juncture, but she seems to be the 
character, and to be incapable of divesting her- 
self of it. This is true acting : any thing else 
is playing tricks, may be clever and ingenious, 
is French Opera- dancing, recitation, heroics or 
hysterics — but it is not true nature or true art. 



ESSAY XII. 

SIR WALTER SCOTT, RACINE, AND 
SHAKESPEAR. 



ESSAY XII. 

SIR WALTER SCOTT, RACINE, AND 
SHAKESPEAR. 



The argil 111 en t at the end of the last Essay 
may possibly serve to throw some light on the 
often agitated and trite question, Whether we re- 
ceive more pleasure from an Opera or aTragedy, 
from the words or the jjantomime of a fine 
dramatic representation ? A musician I can con- 
ceive to declare, sincerely and conscientiously, 
in favour of the Opera over the theatre, for he 
has made it his chief or exclusive study. But 
I have heard some literary persons do the 
same ; and in them it appears to me to be more 
the affectation of candour, than candour itself. 
" The still small voice is wanting " in this pre- 
ference ; for however lulling or overpowering 
the effect of music may be at the time, we 
return to nature at last ; it is there we find 
solidity and repose, and it is from this that the 
understanding ought to give its casting vote. 
Indeed there is a sense of reluctance and a sort 
of critical remorse in the opposite course as in 
VOL. rr. Z 



338 SIR WALTER SCOTT, 

giving up an old prejudice or a friend to whom 
we are under considerable obligations ; but tins 
very feeling of the conquest or sacrifice of a 
prejudice is a tacit proof that we are wrong; 
for it arises only out of tlie strong interest 
excited in the course of time, and involved 
in the nature and principle of the drama. 

Words are the signs which point out and 
define the objects of the highest import to 
the human mind; and speech is the habitual, 
and as it were most intimate mode of express- 
ing those signs, the one with which our prac- 
tical and serious associations are most in uni- 
son. To give a deUberate verdict on the other 
side of the question seems, tlierefore, effeminate 
and unjust. A rose is delightful to the smell, 
a pine-apple to the taste. The nose and the 
palate, if their opinion were asked, might very 
fairly give it in favour of these against any 
rival sentiment ; but the head and the heart 
cannot be expected to become accomplices 
against themselves. We cannot pay a worse 
compliment to any pleasure or pursuit than to 
surrender the pretensions of some other to it. 
. Every thing stands best on its own founda- 
tion. A sound expresses, for the most part, 
nothing but itself; a word expresses a million 
of sounds. The thought or impression of the 



RACINE, AND SHAKESPEAR. 339 

moment is one thing, and it may be more or 
less deliglitful ; but beyond this, it may relate 
to the fate or events of a whole life, and it is 
this moral and intellectual perspective that 
words convey in its full signification and ex- 
tent, and that gives a proportionable superio- 
rity in weight, in compass, and dignity to the 
denunciations of the tragic Muse. The lan- 
guage of the understanding is necessary to a 
rational being. Man is dumb and prone to the 
earth without it. It is that which opens the 
vista of our past or future years. Otherwise a 
cloud is upon it, like the mist of the morning, 
like a veil of roses, an exhalation of sweet sounds, 
or rich distilled perfumes ; no matter what — 
it is the nerve or organ that is chiefly touched, 
the sense that is wrapped in ecstacy or waked 
to madness ; the man remains unmoved, torpid, 
and listless, blind to causes and consequences, 
which he can never remain satisfied without 
knowing, but seems shut up in a cell of igno- 
rance, baffled and confounded. Sounds with- 
out meaning are like a glare of light without 
objects ; or, an Opera is to a Tragedy what a 
transparency is to a picture. We are delighted 
because we are dazzled. But words are a key 
to the affections. They not only excite feel- 
ings, but they point to the ivhy and wherefore. 

z 2 



340 SIR WALTER SCOTT, 

Causes march before them, and consequences 
follow after" them. They are links in the chain 
of the universe, and the grappling-irons that 
bind us to it. They open the gates of Paradise, 
and reveal the abyss of human woe. 

" Four lagging winters and four wanton springs 
Die in a word ; such is the breath of kings." 

But in this respect all men who have the use of 
speech are kings. It is words that constitute 
all but the present moment, but the present ob- 
ject. They may not and they do not give the 
whole of any train of impressions which they 
suggest ; but they alone answer in any degree 
to the truth of things, unfold the dark laby- 
rinth of fate, or unravel the web of the human 
heart ; for they alone describe things in the 
order and relation in which they happen in 
human life. Men do not dance or sing through 
life ; or an Opera or a ballet would " come 
home to the bosoms and businesses of men," 
in the same manner that a Tragedy or Comedy 
does. As it is, they do not piece on to our or- 
dinary existence, nor go to enrich our habitual 
reflections. We wake from them as from a 
drunken dream, or a last night's debauch ; and 
think of them no more, till the actual impres- 
sion is repeated. — On the other hand, panto- 



IIACINE, AND SHAKESPEAR. 341 

mime action (as an exclusive and new species 
of the drama) is like tragedy obtruncated and 
tlirown on the ground, gasping for utterance 
and struggling for breath. It is a display of 
the powers of art, I should think more wonder- 
ful than satisfactory. Tiiere is a stifling sensation 
about it. It does not throw off " the perilous 
stuff that weighs upon the heart," but must 
rather aggravate and tighten the pressure. 

" Give sorrow words ; the grief that does not speak. 
Whispers the o'er-fraught heart, and bids it break." 

This is perhaps the cause of our backwardness 
to admit a comparison between Mrs. Siddons 
and Palarini, between Shakespear and Vigano. 
Poetry and words speak a language proper 
to humanity ; every other is comparatively 
foreign to it. The distinction here laid down 
is important, and should be kept sacred. Even 
in speaking a foreign language, words lose half 
their meaning, and are no longer an echo to 
the sense ; virtue becomes a cant-term, vice 
sounds like an agreeable novelty, and ceases to 
shock. How much more must this effect hap- 
pen, if we lay aside speech (our distinguishing 
faculty) altogether, or try to " gabble most 
brutishly," measure good and evil by the steps 
of a dance, and breathe our souls away in dying 



342 SIR WALTER SCOTT, 

swan-like symphonies ! But it may be asked, 
how does all tliis affect my favourite art of 
painting ? I leave somebody else to answer that 
question. It will be a good exercise for their 
ingenuity, if not for their ingenuousness. 

I proceed to the more immediate object of 
this Essay, which was to distinguish between 
the talents of Sir Walter Scott, Racine, and 
Shakespear. The subject occurred to me from 
some conversation with a French lady, who 
entertains a project of introducing Shakespear 
in France. As I demurred to the probability 
of this alteration in the national taste, she en- 
deavoured to overcome my despondency by 
several lively arguments, and among other 
things, urged the instantaneous and universal 
success of the Scotch Novels among all ranks 
and conditions of the French people. As 
Shakespear had been performing quarantine 
among them for a century and a half to no 
purpose, I thought this circumstance rather 
proved the difference in the genius of the two 
writers than a change in the taste of the nation. 
Madame B. stoutly maintained the contrary 
opinion : and when an Englishman argues with 
a Frencliwoman, he has very considerable odds 
against him. The only advantage you have in 
this case is that you can plead inability to ex- 



RACINE, AND SHAKESPEAR. 343 

press yourself properly, iiiid may be supposed 
to have a meaning where you have none. An 
eager manner will supply the place of distinct 
ideas, and you have only not to surrender in 
form, to appear to come off with flying colours. 
The not being able to make others vmderstand 
me, however, prevents me from understanding 
myself, and I was by no means satisfied with 
the reasons I alleged in the present instance. 
I tried to mend them the next day, and the fol- 
lowing is the result. — It was supposed at one 
time that the genius of the Author of Waverley 
was confined to Scotland ; that his Novels .and 
Tales were a bundle of national prejudices and 
local traditions, and that his superiority would 
desert him, the instant he attempted to cross 
the Border. He made the attempt, however, 
and contrary to these unfavourable prognostics, 
succeeded. Ivanhoe, if not equal to the very 
best of the Scotch Novels, is very nearly so ; 
and the scenery and manners are truly English. 
In Quentin Durward, again, he made a descent 
upon France, and gained new laurels, instead of 
losing his former ones. This seemed to bespeak 
a versatility of talent and a plastic power, which 
in the first instance had been called in question. 
A Scotch mist had been suspected to hang its 
mystery over the page ; his im.agination was 



344 SIR WALTER SCOTT, 

borne up on Highland superstitions and obsolete 
traditions, "sailing with supreme dominion" 
through the murky regions of ignorance and 
barbarism ; and if ever at a loss, his invention 
was eked out and got a cast by means of ancient 
documents and the records of criminal jurispru- 
dence or fanatic rage. The Black Dwarf was a 
paraphrase of the current anecdotes of David 
liitchie, without any additional point or inte- 
rest, and the story of Effie Deans had slept for 
a century in the law reports and depositions re- 
lative to the Heart of Mid-Lothian. To be 
sure, .nothing could be finer or truer to nature ; 
for the human heart, whenever or however it is 
wakened, has a stirring power in it, and as to 
the truth of nature, nothing can be more like 
nature than facts, if you know where to find 
them. But as to sheer invention, there appeared 
to be about as much as there is in the getting up 
the melo-dramatic representation of the Maid 
and the Magpye from the Causes Cele.bres. 
The invention is much greater and the effect is 
not less in Mrs. Inchbald's Nature and Art, 
where there is nothing that can liave been given 
in evidence but the Trial-Scene near the end, 
and even that is not a legal anecdote, but a pure 
dramatic fiction. Before I proceed, I may as 
Vv'cl! dwell on this point a littic. The heroine 



RACINE, AND SHAKESPEAK. 34,5 

of the story, tlie once innocent and beautiful 
Hannah, is brought by a series of misfortunes 
and crimes (the effect of a misplaced attach- 
ment) to be tried for her life at the Old Bailey, 
and as her Judge, her former lover and seducer, 
is about to pronounce sentence upon her, she 
calls out in an agony — " Oh ! not from you!" 
and as the Hon. Mr. Norwynne proceeds to 
finish his solemn address, falls in a swoon, and 
is taken senseless from the bar. I know nothing 
in the world so affecting as this. Now if Mrs. 
Inchbald had merely found this story in the 
Newgate-Calendar, and transplanted it into a 
novel, I conceive that her merit in point of 
genius (not to say feeling) would be less than if 
having all the other circumstances given, and 
the apparatus ready, and this exclamation alone 
left blank, she had filled it up from her own 
heart, that is, from an intense conception of the 
situation of the parties, so that from the harrowing 
recollections passing through the mind of the 
poor girl so circumstanced, this uncontrolable 
gush of feeling would burst from her lips. Just 
such I apprehend, generally speaking, is the 
amount of the difference between the genius of 
Shakespear and that of Sir Walter Scott. It is 
the difference between origmaUty and the want 
of it, between writing and transcribing. Al- 



//»>- 



31-6 SIR WALTER SCOTT, 

most all the finest scenes and touches, the great 
master-strokes in Shakespear are such as must 
liave belonged to the class of invention, where 
the secret lay between him and his own heart, 
and the power exerted is in adding to the given 
materials and working something out of them : 
in the Author of Waverley, not all^ but the 
principal and characteristic beauties are such as 
may and do belong to the class of compilation, 
that isj consist in !)ringing the materials toge- 
ther and leaving them to produce tlieir own 
effect. Sir Walter Scott is much such a writer 
as the Duke of Wellington is a- General (I am 
prophaning a num.ber of great names in this 
article by unetjual comparisons). The one gets 
a hundred thousand men together, and wisely 
leaves it to them to fight out the battle, for if 
he meddled with it, he might spoil sport . the 
other gets an innumerable quantity of facts to- 
gether, and lets them tell their own story, as 
best they may. The facts are stubborn in the 
last instance as the men are in the first, and in 
neither case is the broth spoiled by the cook. 
This abstinence from interfering with their re- 
sources, lest they should defeat their own suc- 
cess, shews great modesty and self-knowledge 
in the compiler of romances and the leader of 
armies, but little boldness or inventiveness of 



RACINE, AND SHAKESPEAR. 34>7 

genius. We begin to measure Shakespear's 
height from the superstructure of passion and 
fancy he has raised out of his subject and story, 
on which too rests the triumphal arch of his 
fame: if we were to take away the subject and 
story, the portrait and history from the Scotch 
Novels, no great deal would be left worth talk- 
ing about. 

No one admires or delights in the Scotch 
Novels more than I do ; but at the same time 
when I hear it asserted that his mind is of the 
same class with Shakes])ear's, or that he imitates 
nature in the same way, I confess I cannot 
assent to it. No two things appear to me more 
different. Sir Walter is an imitator of nature 
and nothing more ; but I think Shakespear is 
infinitely more than this. The creative prin- 
ciple is every where restless and redundant in 
Shakespear, both as it relates to the invention 
of feeling and imagery; in the Author ofWa- 
verley it lies for the most part dormant, slug- 
gish, and unused. Sir Walter's mind is full of 
information, but the " o'er-irrformivg power''' is 
not there. Shakespear's spirit, like fire, shines 
through him : Sir Walter's, like a stream, re- 
flects surrounding objects. It is true, he has 
shifted the scene from Scotland into England 
and France, and the manners and characters are 



848 SIR WALTER SCOTT, 

strikingly English and French ; but this does 
not prove that they are not local, and that they 
are not borrowed, as well as the scenery and cos- 
tume, from comparatively obvious and mecha- 
nical sources. Nobody from reading Shake- 
spear would know (except from the Dramatis 
Personce) that I>ear was an English king. He 
is merely a king and a father. The ground is 
common : but what a well of tears has he dug 
out of it ! The tradition is nothing, or a foolish 
one. There are no data in history to go upon ; 
no advantage is taken of costume, no acquaint- 
ance with geography or architecture or dialect 
is necessary : but there is an old tradition, hu- 
man nature — an old temple, the human mind — 
and Shakespear walks into it and looks about 
him with a lordly eye, and seizes on the sacred 
spoils as his own. The story is a thousand or two 
years old, and yet the tragedy has no smack of 
antiquarianism in it. I should like very well to 
see Sir Walter giving. us a tragedy of this kind, 
a huge n' globose " of sorrow, swinging round 
in mid-air, independent of time, place, and cir- 
cumstance, sustained by its own weight and 
motion, and not propped up by the levers of 
custom, or patched up with quaint, old-fashioned 
dresses, or set off by grotesque backgrounds or 
rusty armour, but in wiiich the mere parapher- 



RACINE, AND SHAKESPEAR. 349 

iialia and accessories were left out of the ques- 
tion, and nothing but the soul of passion and 
the pith of imagination was to be fonnd. 
" A Dukedom to a beggarly denier,^'' he would 
make nothing of it. Does this prove he has 
done nothing, or that he has not done the great- 
est things ? No, but that he is not like Shake- 
spear. For instance, when Lear says, " The lit- 
tle dogs and all. Tray, Blanche, and Sweetheart, 
see they bark at me !" there is no old Chronicle 
of the line of Brute, no black-letter^ broad-side, 
no tattered ballad, no vague rumour, in which 
this exclamation is registered ; there is nothing 
romantic, quaint, mysterious in the objects in- 
troduced : the illustration is borrowed from the 
commonest and most casual images in nature, 
and yet it is this very circumstance that lends 
its extreme force to the expression of his grief 
by shewing that even the lowest things in crea- 
tion and the last you w^ould think of had in his 
imagination turned against him. All nature 
was, as he supposed, in a conspiracy against 
him, and the most trivial and insignificant crea- 
tures concerned in it were the most striking 
proofs of its malignity and extent. It is the 
depth of passion, however, or of the poet's sym- 
pathy with it, that distinguishes this character 
of torturing familiarity in them, invests them 



S50 SIR WALTER SCOTT, 

with corresponding importance, and suggests 
them by the force of contrast. It is not that 
certain images are surcharged with a prescript 
tive influence over the imagination from known 
and existing prejudices, so that to approach or 
even mention them is sure to excite a pleasing 
awe and horror in the mind (the effect in this 
case is mostly mechanical) — the whole sublimity 
of the passage is from the weight of passion 
thrown into it, and this is the poet's own doing. 
This is not trick, but genius. Meg Merrilies on 
her death-bed says, " Lay my head to the East !" 
Nothing can be finer or more thrilling than this 
in its way ; but the author has little to do with 
it. It is an Oriental superstition ; it is a pro- 
verbial expression ; it is part of the gibberish 
(sublime though it be) of her gipsey clan ! — 
'' Nothing but his unkind daughters could have 
brought him to this pass." This is not a cant- 
phrase, nor the fragment of an old legend, nor a 
mysterious spell, nor the butt-end of a wizard's 
denunciation. It is the mere natural ebullition 
of passion, urged nearly to madness, and that 
will admit no other cause of dire misfortune but 
its, own, which swallows up all other griefs. The 
force of despair hurries the iniagination over the 
boundary of fact and common sense, and ren- 
ders the transition sublime ; but there is no pre- 



RACINE, AND SIIAKESPEAR. 351 

cedent or authority for it, except in the general 
nature of the human mind. I think, but am not 
sure that Sir Walter Scott has imitated this turn 
of reflection, by making Madge Wildfire ascribe 
Jenny Deans's uneasiness to the loss of her baby, 
which had unsettled her own brain. Again, 
Leaji' calls on the Heavens to take his part, for 
•' they are old like him." Here there is nothing 
to prop up the image but the strengtii of passion, 
confoundingtheinfirmity of age with the stability 
of the firmament, and equalling the complainant, 
through the sense of suffering and wrong, with 
the Majesty of the Highest. This finding out a 
parallel between the most unlike objects, be- 
cause the individual would wish to find one to 
support the sense of his own misery and help- 
lessness, is truly Shakespearian ; it is an in- 
stinctive law of our nature, and the genuine 
inspiration of the Muse. Racine (but let me 
not anticipate) would make him pour out three 
hundred verses of lamentation for his loss of 
kingdom, hisfeebleness, and his old age, coming 
to the same conclusion at the end of every third 
couplet, instead of making him grasp at once at 
the Heavens for support. The witches in Mac- 
beth are traditional, preternatural personages ; 
and there Sir Walter would have left them after 
making what use of them he pleased as a sort of 



35'2 SIR WALTER SCOTT, 

Gothic machinery. Shakespear makes some- 
thing more of them, and adds to the mystery by 
explaining it. 

" The earth hath bubbles as the water hath, 
And these are of them." 

We have their physiognomy too — 

" and enjoin'd silence, 

By each at once her choppy finger laying 
Upon her skinny lip." 

And the mode of their disappearance is thus 
described — 

" And then they melted into thin air." 

What an idea is here conveyed of silence and 
vacancy ! The geese of Micklestane Muir (the 
country-woman and her flock of geese turned 
into stone) in the Black Dwarf, are a fine and 
petrifying metamorphosis ; but it is the tradi- 
tion of the country and no more. Sir Walter has 
told us nothing farther of it than the first clown 
whom we might ask concerning it. I do not 
blame him for that, though I cannot give him 
credit for what he has not done. The poetry of 
the novel is ^fixture of the spot. Meg Merri- 
lies I also allow, with all possible good-will, to 
be a most romantic and astounding personage ; 
yet she is a little melo-dramatic. Her exits and 
entrances are pantomimic, and her long red 



RACINE, AND SHAKESPEAR. 3.53 

cloak, her elf-locks, the rock on which slie 
stands, and the white cloud behind her are, 
or might be made the property of a theatre. 
Shakespear's witches are nearly exploded on 
the stage. Their broomsticks are left ; their 
metiiphysics are gone, buried five editions deep 
in Captain Medwin's Conversations ! The pas- 
sion in Othello is made out of nothing but 
itself; there is no external machinery to help 
it on ; its highest intermediate agent is an old- 
fashioned pocket-handkerchief. Yet "there's 
magic in the web" of thoughts and feelings, 
done after the commonest pattern of human 
life. The power displayed in it is that of in- 
tense passion and powerful intellect, wielding 
every-day events, and imparting its force to 
them, not swayed or carried along by them as 
in a go-cart. The splendour is that of genius 
darting out its forked flame on whatever comes 
in its way, and kindling and melting it in the 
furnace of affection, whether it be flax or iron. 
The colouring, the form, the motion, the com- 
bination of objects depend on the pre-disposi- 
tion of the mind, moulding nature to its own 
purposes ; in Sir Walter the mind is as wax to 
circumstances, and owns no other impress. 
Shakespear is a half-worker with nature. Sir 
Walter is like a man who has got a romantic 
VOL. u. 2 A 



354> SIR WALTER SCOTT, 

spinning-jenny, which he has only to set a going, 
and it does his work for him much better 
and faster than he can do it for himself. He 
lays an embargo on " all appliances and means 
to boot," on history, tradition, local scenery, 
costume and manners, and makes his characters 
chiefly up of these. Shakespear seizes only on the 
ruling passion, and miraculously evolves all the 
rest from it. The eagerness of desire suggests 
every possible event that can irritate or thwart 
it, foresees all obstacles, catches at every trifle, 
clothes itself with imagination, and tantalises 
itself with hope; "sees Helen's beauty in a 
brow of Egypt," starts at a phantom, and makes 
the universe tributary to it, and tiie play-thing 
of its fancy. There is none of this over-ween- 
ing importunity of the imagination in the Au- 
thor of Waverley, he does his work well, but in 
another-guess manner. His imagination is a 
matter-of-fact imagination. To return to Othello. 
Take the celebrated dialogue in the third act. 
** 'Tis common." There is nothing but the 
writhings and contortions of the heart, probed 
by aflfliction's point, as the flesh shrinks under 
the surgeon's knife. All its starts and flaws 
are but the conflicts and misgivings of hope and 
fear, in the most ordinary but trying circum- 
stances. The " Not a jot, not a jot," has no- 



RACINE, AND SHAKESI'EAR. 355 

tiling to do with any old legend or prophecy. 
It is only the last poor effort of human hope, 
taking refuge on the lips. When after being in- 
fected with jealousy by lago, he retires appa- 
rently comforted and resigned, and then without 
any thing having happened in the interim, re- 
turns stung to madness, crowned with his 
wrongs, and raging for revenge, the effect is like 
that of poison inflaming the blood, or like fire 
inclosed in a furnace. The sole principle of 
invention is the sympathy with the natural re- 
vulsion of the human mind, and its involuntary 
transition from false security to uncontrolable 
fury. The springs of mental passion are fretted 
and wrought to madness, and produce this ex- 
plosion in the poet's breast. So when Othello 
swears *' By yon marble heaven," the epithet is 
suggested by the hardness of his heart from the 
sense of injury : the textureof the outward object 
is borrowed from that of the thoughts : and that 
noble simile, " Like the Propontic," &c. seems 
only an echo of the sounding tide of passion, 
and to roll from the same source, the heart. 
The dialogue between Hubert and Arthur, and 
that between Brutus and Cassius are among the 
finest illustrations of the same principle, which 
indeed is every where predominant (perhaps to a 
fault) in Shakespear. His genius is like the 

2 a2 



356 SIR WALTER SCOTT, 

Nile overflowing and enriching its banks ; that 
of Sir Walter is like a mountain-stream rendered 
interesting by the picturesqiieness of the sur- 
rounding scenery. Shakespear produces his 
most striking dramatic effects out of the work- 
ings of the finest and most intense passions ; Sir 
Walter places his dramatis personce in romantic 
situations, and subjects them to extraordinary 
occurrences, and narrates the results. The one 
gives us what we see and hear ; the other what 
we are. Hamlet is not a person whose nativity 
is cast, or whose death is foretold by portents : 
he weaves the web of his destiny out of his own 
thoughts, and a very quaint and singular one it 
is. We have, I think, a stronger fellow-feeling 
with him than we have with Bertram or Waver- 
ley. All men feel and think, more or less : but 
we are not all foundlings, Jacobites, or astrolo- 
gers. We might have been overturned with 
these gentlemen in a stage-coach : we seem to 
have been school-fellows with Hamlet at Wit- 
tenberg. 

I will not press this argument farther, lest I 
should make it tedious, and run into questions 
I have no intention to meddle with. All I mean 
to insist upon is, that Sir Walter's /br^e is in the 
richness and variety of his materials, and Shake- 
spear's in tlie working them up. Sir Walter is 



RACINE, AND SHAKESPEAR. 357 

distinguished by the most amazing retentiveness 
of memory, and vividness of conception of what 
would happen, be seen, and felt by every body 
in given circumstances ; as Shakespear is by in- 
ventiveness ofgenius,bya faculty of tracing and 
unfolding the most hidden yet powerful springs 
of action, scarce recognised by ourselves, and by 
an endless and felicitous range of poetical illus- 
tration, added to a wide scope of reading and of 
knowledge. One proof of the justice of these 
remarks is, that whenever Sir Walter comes to a 
truly dramatic situation, he declines it or fails. 
Thus in the Black Dwarf, all that relates to the 
traditions respecting this mysterious personage, 
to the superstitious stories founded on it, is ad- 
mirably done and to the life, with all the spirit 
and freedom of originality : but when he comes 
to the last scene for which all the rest is a pre- 
paration, and which is full of the highest in- 
terest and passion, nothing is done ; instead of 
an address from Sir Edward Mauley, recount- 
ing the miseries of his whole life, and withering 
up his guilty rival with the recital, the Dwarf 
enters with a strange rustling noise, the opposite 
doors fly open, and the affrighted spectators rush 
out like the figures in a pantomime. This is 
not dramatic, but melo-dramatic. There is a 
palpable disappointment and falling-off, where 



3,58 SIR WALTER SCOTT, 

the interest had been worked up to tlie highest 
pitch of expectation. The gratifying of this 
appalHng curiosity and interest was all that was 
not done to Sir Walter's hand ; and this he has 
failed to do. All that was known about the 
Black Dwarf, his figure, his desolate habitation, 
his unaccountable way of life, his wrongs, his 
bitter execrations against intruders on his pri- 
vacy, the floating and exaggerated accounts of 
him, all these are given with a masterly and 
faithful hand, this is matter of description and 
narrative : but when the true imaginative and 
dramatic part comes, when the subject of this 
disastrous tale is to pour out the accumulated 
and agonising effects of all this series of wretch- 
edness and torture upon his own mind, that is, 
when the person is to speak from himself and 
to stun us with the recoil of passion upon exter- 
nal agents or circumstances that have caused it, 
we find that it is Sir Walter Scott and not 
Shakespear that is his counsel-keeper, that the 
author is a novelist and not a poet. All that is 
gossipped in the neighbourhood, all that is 
handed down in print, all of which a drawing or 
an etching might be procured, is gathered to- 
gether and communicated to the public : what 
the heart whispers to itself in secret, what the 
imagination tells in thunder, this alone is want- 



RACINE, AND SHAKESPEAR. 3,59 

ing, and this is the great thing required to make 
good the comparison in question. Sir Walter 
has not then imitated Shakespear, but he has 
given us nature, such as he found and could 
best describe it ; and he resembles him only in 
this, that he thinks of his characters and never 
of himself, and pours out his works with such 
unconscious ease and prodigality of resources 
that he thinks nothing of them, and is even 
greater than his own fame. 

The genius of Shakespear is dramatic, that of 
Scott narrative or descriptive, that of Racine is 
didactic. He gives, as I conceive, the common- 
places of the human heart better tlian any one, 
but nothing or very little more. He enlarges 
on a set of obvious sentiments and well-known 
topics with considerable elegance of language 
and copiousness of declamation, but there is 
scarcely one stroke of original genius, nor any 
thing like imagination in his writings. He 
strings togetlier a number of moral reflections, 
and instead of reciting them himself, puts them 
into the mouths of his dramatis personce, who 
talk well about their own situations and the 
general relations of human life. Instead of lay- 
ing bare the heart of tlie sufferer with all its 
bleeding wounds and palpitating fibres, he puts 
into his hand a common-place book, and he 



360 SIR WALTER SCOTT, RACINE, &c. 

reads us a lecture from this. This is not the 
essence of the drama, whose object and privi- 
lege it is to give us the extreme and subtle work- 
insfs of the human mind in individual circum- 
stances, to make us sympathise with the sufferer, 
or feel as we sliould feel in liis circumstances, 
not to tell the indifferent spectator what the 
indifferent spectator could just as well tell him. 
Tragedy is human nature tried in the crucible 
of affliction, not exhibited in the vague theorems 
of speculation. The poet's pen that paints all 
this in words of fire and images of gold is totally 
wanting in Racine. He gives neither external 
images nor the internal and secret workings of 
the human breast. Sir Walter Scott gives the 
external imagery or machinery of passion ; 
Shakespear the soul ; and Racine the moral or 
argument of it. The French object to Shake- 
spear for his breach of the Unities, and hold up 
Racine as a model of classical propriety, who 
makes a Greek hero address a Grecian heroine 
as Madame. Yet this is not barbarous — Why? 
Because it is French, and because nothing that 
is French can be barbarous in the eyes of this 
frivolous and pedantic nation, who would prefer 
a peruke of the age of Louis XIV. to a simple 
Greek head-dress ! 



ESSAY xm. 

ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY, 



ESSAY XIII. 

ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 



I WISH to make this Essay a sort of study 
of the meaning of several words, which have 
at different times a good deal puzzled me. 
Among these are the words, ivicked, J'alse and 
true, as applied to feeling ; and lastly, depth and 
shallowness. It may amuse the reader to see 
the way in which I work out some of my con- 
clusions under-ground, before throwing them 
up on the surface. 

A great but useless thinker once asked me, if 
I had ever known a child of a naturally wicked 
disposition ? and I answered, " Yes, that there 
was one in the house with me that cried from 
morning to night, ^rjr spite.'* I was laughed at 
for this answer, but still I do not repent it. It 
appeared to me that this child took a delight in 
tormenting itself and others ; that the love of 
tyrannising over others and subjecting them to 
its caprices was a full compensation for the 
beating it received, that the screams it uttered 
soothed its peevish, turbulent spirit, and that it 
had a positive pleasure in pain from the sense 



SCvh ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 

of power accompanying it. His prhic/piis nas- 
cimtur tyrannic his carni/ex animus. I was sup- 
posed to magnify and over-rate the sym.ptoms 
of the disease, and to make a childish humour 
into a bugbear ; but, indeed, I have no other 
idea of what is commonly understood by wick- 
edness than that perversion of the will or love 
of mischief for its own sake, which constantly 
displays itself (though in trifles and on a ludi- 
crously small scale) in early childhood. I have 
often been reproached with extravagance for 
considering things only in their abstract princi- 
ples, and with heat and ill- temper, for getting 
into a passion about what no ways concerned 
me. If any one wishes to see me quite calm, 
tliey may cheat me in a bargain, or tread upon 
my toes j but a truth repelled, a sopliism re- 
peated, totally disconcerts me, and I lose all 
patience. I am not, in the ordinary accepta- 
tion of the term, a good-natured man ; that is, 
many things annoy me besides what interferes 
with my own ease and interest. 1 hate a lie ; a 
piece of injustice wounds me to the quick, 
though nothing but the report of it reach me. 
Therefore I have made many enemies and few 
friends ; for the public know nothing of well- 
wishers, and keep a wary eye on those that 
would reform them. Coleridge used to com- 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 365 

plain of my irascibility in this respect, and not 
witliout reason. Would that he had possessed 
a little of my tenaciousness and jealousy of tem- 
per ; and then, with his eloquence to paint the 
wrong, and acuteness to detect it, his country 
and the cause of liberty might not have fallen 
without a struggle ! The craniologists give me 
the organ of local memory y of which faculty I 
have not a particle, though they may say that 
my frequent allusions to conversations that 
occurred" many years ago prove the contrary. 
I once spent a whole evening with Dr. Spurz- 
heim, and I utterly forget all that passed, except 
that the Doctor waltzed before we parted ! The 
only faculty I do possess, is that of a certain 
morbid interest in things, which makes me 
equally remember or anticipate by nervous ana- 
logy whatever touches it j and for this our 
nostrum-mongers have no specific organ, so that 
I am quite left out of their system. No wonder 
that I should pick a quarrel with it ! It vexes 
me beyond all bearing to see children kill flies 
for sport ; for the principle is the same as in the 
most deliberate and profligate acts of cruelty 
they can afterwards exercise upon their fellow- 
creatures. And yet I let moths burn themselves 
to death in the candle, for it makes me mad ; 
and I say it is in vain to prevent fools from 



366 ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 

rushing upon destruction. The author of the 
" Rime of the Ancient Mariner," (who sees 
farther into such things than most people,) 
could not understand why I should bring a 
charge of wickedness against an infant before it 
could speak, merely for squalling and straining 
its lungs a little. If the child had been in pain 
or in fear, I should have said nothing, but it 
cried only to vent its passion and alarm the 
house, and I saw in its frantic screams and 
gestures that great baby, the world, tumbling 
about in its swaddling-clothes, and tormenting 
itself and others for the last six thousand years ! 
The plea of ignorance, of folly, of grossness, or 
selfishness makes nothing either way : it is the 
downright love of pain and mischief for the in- 
terest it excites, and the scope it gives to an 
abandoned will, that is the root of all the evil, 
and the original sin of human nature. There is 
a love of power in the mind independent of the 
love of good, and this love of power, when it 
comes to be opposed to the spirit of good, and 
is leagued with the spirit of evil to commit it 
with greediness, is wickedness. I know of no 
other definition of the term. A person who 
does not foresee consequences is a fool : he 
who cheats others to serve himself is a knave : 
he who is immersed in sensual pleasure is a 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 367 

brute ; but he alone, who has a pleasure in in- 
juring another, or in debasing himself, that is, 
who does a thing with a particular relish be- 
cause he ought not, is properly wicked. This 
character implies the fiend at the bottom of it; 
and is mixed up pretty plentifully (according to 
my philosophy) in the untoward composition of 
human nature. It is this craving after what is 
prohibited, and the force of contrast adding its 
zest to the violations of reason and propriety, 
that accounts for the excesses of pride, of 
cruelty, and lust ; and at the same time frets 
and vexes the surface of life with petty evils, 
and plants a canker in the bosom of our daily 
enjoyments. Take away the enormities dic- 
tated by the wanton and pampered pride of 
human will, glutting itself with the sacrifice of 
the welfare of others, or with the desecration of 
its own best feelings, and also the endless bick- 
erings, heart-burnings, and disappointments 
produced by the spirit of contradiction on a 
smaller scale, and the life of man would " spin 
round on its soft axle," unharmed and free, nei- 
ther appalled by huge crimes, nor infested by 
insect follies. It might, indeed, be monotonous 
and insipid ; but it is the hankering after mis- 
chievous and violent excitement that leads to 
this result, that causes that indifference to good 



368 ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITV. 

and proneness to evil, which is the very thing 
complained of. The griefs we suffer are for the 
most part of our own seeking and making ; or 
we incur or inflict them, not to avert other im- 
pending evils, but to drive off ennui. There 
must be a spice of mischief and wilfulness 
thrown into the cup of our existence to give it 
its sharp taste and sparkling colour. I shall not 
go into a formal argument on this subject, for 
fear of being tedious, nor endeavour to enforce 
it by extreme cases for fear of being disgusting; 
but shall content myself with some desultory and 
familiar illustrations of it. 

I laugh at those who deny that we ever wan- 
tonly or unnecessarily inflict pain upon others, 
when I see how fond we are of ingeniously tor- 
menting ourselves. What is sullenness in chil- 
dren or grown people but revenge against our- 
selves ? We had rather be the victims of this 
absurd and headstrong feeling, than give up an 
inveterate purpose, retract an error, or relax 
from the intensity of our will, whatever it may 
cost us. A surly man is his own enemy, and 
knowingly sacrifices his interest to his ill- 
humour, because he would at any time rather 
disoblige you than serve himself, as I believe I 
have already shewn in another place. The rea- 
son is, he has a natural aversion to every thing 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. SGO 

agreeable or bappy — be turns witb disgust from 
every sucb feeHng, as not according witb tbe 
severe tone of bis mind — and it is in excluding 
all inlercbange of friendly affections or kind 
offices tbat tbe ruling bias and tbe cbief satis- 
faction of bis life consist. Is not every country- 
town supplied witb its scolds and scandal-mon- 
gers ? Tbe first cannot cease from plaguing 
tbemselves and every body about tbem witb 
tbeir senseless clamour, because tbe rage of 
words bas become by babit and indulgence a 
thirst, a fever on tbeir parcbed tongue ; and tbe 
otbers continue to make enemies by some smart 
hit or sly insinuation at every third word they 
speak, because witb every new enemy there is 
an additional sense of power. One man will 
sooner part with bis friend than his joke, be- 
cause the stimulus of saying a good thing is ir- 
ritated, instead of being repressed, by tbe fear 
of giving offence, and by the imprudence or un- 
fairness of tbe remark. Malice often takes the 
garb of truth. We find a set of persons who 
pride themselves on being plain-spolien people, 
that is, who blurt out every thing disagreeable 
to your face, by way of wounding your feelings 
and relieving tbeir own, and this they call 
honesty. Even among philosophers we may 
have noticed those who are not contented to 

VOL. II. 2 B 



370 ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 

inform the understandings of their readers, un- 
less they can shock their prejudices; and among 
poets those who tamper with the rotten parts of 
their subject, adding to their fancied pretensions 
by trampling on the sense of shame. There are 
rigid reasoners who will not be turned aside 
from following up a logical argument by any 
regard to consequences, or the ^' compunctious 
visitings of nature," (such is their love of truth) 
— I never knew one of these scrupulous and 
hard-mouthed logicians who would not falsify 
the facts and distort the inference in order to 
arrive at a distressing and repulsive conclusion. 
Such is the fascination of what releases our own 
will from thraldom, and compels that of others 
reluctantly to submit to terms of our dictating ! 
We feel our own power, and disregard their 
weakness and effeminacy with prodigious self- 
complacency. Lord Clive, when a boy, saw a 
butcher passing with a calf in a cart. A com- 
panion whom he had with him said, " I should 
not like to be that butcher !" — " I should not 
like to be that calf," replied the future Governor 
of India, laughing at all sympathy but that with 
his own sufferings. The " wicked " Lord Lyt- 
tleton (as he was called) dreamt a little before 
his death that he was confined in a huge subter- 
ranean vault (the inside of this round globe) 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 371 

where as far as eye could see, he could discern 
no living object, till at last he saw a female fi- 
gure coming towards him, and who should it 
turn out to be, but Mother Brownrigg, whom 
of all people he most hated! That was the very 
reason w hy he dreamt of her. 

" You ask her crime : she whipp'd two 'prentices to death, 
And hid them in the coal-hole." 

Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin. 

I do not know that hers is exactly a case in 
point ; but I conceive that in the well-known 
catastrophe here alluded to, words led to blows, 
bad usage brought on worse from mere irrita- 
tion and opposition, and that, probably, even 
remorse and pity urged on to aggravated acts 
of cruelty and oppression, as the only means 
of drowning reflection on the past in the fury 
of present passion. I believe that remorse for 
past offences has sometimes made the greatest 
criminals, as the being unable to appease a 
wounded conscience renders men desperate ; 
and if I hear a person express great impatience 
and uneasiness at some error that he is liable to, 
I am tolerably sure that the conflict will end in 
a repetition of the offence. If a man who got 
drunk over-night, repents bitterly next morn- 
ing, he will get drunk again at night ; for both 
in his repentance and his self-gratification he is 

2 B 2 



372 ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 

led away by the feeling of the moment. But 
this is not wickedness, but despondency and 
want of strength of mind; and I only attribute 
wickedness to those who carry their wills in 
their hands, and who wantonly and deliberately 
suffer them to tyrannize over conscience, reason, 
and humanity, and who even draw an additional 
triumph from this degrading conquest. The 
wars, persecutions, and bloodshed, occasioned 
by religion, have generally turned on the most 
trifling differences in forms and ceremonies ; 
which shews that it was not the vital interests 
of the questions that were at stake, but that 
these were made a handle and pretext to exer- 
cise cruelty and tyranny on the score of the 
most trivial and doubtful points of faith. There 
seems to be a love of absurdity and falshood as 
well as mischief in the human mind, and the 
most ridiculous as well as barbarous supersti- 
tions have on this account been the most ac- 
ceptable to it. A lie is welcome to it, for it is, 
as it were, its own offspring ; and it likes to 
believe, as well as act, whatever it pleases, and 
in the pure spirit of contradiction. The old 
idolatry took vast hold of the earhest ages ; for 
to believe that a piece of painted stone or wood 
was a God (in the teeth of the fact) was a fine 
exercise of the imagination ; and modern fana- 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 373 

ticism thrives in proportion to the quantity of 
contradictions and nonsense it pours down the 
throats of the gaping multitude, and the jargon 
and mysticism it offers to tlieir wonder and cre- 
dulity. Credo quia impossibile est, is the standing 
motto of bigotry and superstition ; that is, I 
beheve, because to do so is a favourite act of 
the wilJ, and to do so m defiance of common 
sense and reason enhances the pleasure and 
the merit (ten-fold) of this indulgence of blind 
fliith and headsti'ong imagination. Metho- 
dism, in particular, which at once absolves 
the understanding from the rules of reasoning, 
and the conscience from the restraints of mo- 
rality, throwing the whole responsibihty upon a 
vicarious righteousness and an abstract belief, 
must, besides its rant, its vulgarity, and its 
amatory style, have a double charm both for 
saints and sinners. I have also observed a sort 
oi fatuity^ an indolence or indocility of the will 
to circvimstances, which I think has a consider- 
able share in the common affairs of life. I 
would willingly compound for all the mischiefs 
that are done me voluntarily, if I could escape 
those which are done me without any motive at 
all, or even with the best intentions. For in- 
stance, if I go to a distance where I am anxious 
to receive an answer to my letters, I am sure to 
be kept in suspense. My friends are aware of 



374 ON DEFTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 

this, as also of my impatience and irritability ; 
and they cannot prevail on themselves to put 
an end to this dramatic situation of the parties. 
There is pleasure (an innocent and well-mean- 
ing one) in keeping a friend in suspense^ in not 
putting one's-self out of one's way for his ill 
humours and apprehensions (though one would 
not for the world do him a serious injury), as 
there is in dangling the finny prey at the end of 
a hook, or in twirling round a cock-chafFer after 
sticking a pin through him at the end of a 
string, — there is no malice in the case, no deli- 
berate cruelty, but the buzzing noise and the 
secret consciousness of superiority to any an- 
noyance or inconvenience ourselves lull the 
mind into a delightful state of listless torpor 
and indifference. If a letter requires an imme- 
diate answer, send it by a private hand to save 
postage. If our messenger falls sick or breaks 
a leg and begs vis to forward it by some other 
means, return it him again, and insist on its 
being conveyed according to its first destina- 
tion. His cure may be slow but sure. In the 
mean time our friend can wait. We have done 
our duty in writing the letter, and are in no 
hurry to receive it ! We know the contents, and 
they are matters of perfect indifference to us. 
No harm is meant by all this, but a great deal 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 37^ 

of mischief may accrue. There is, in short, a 
sluiigishness and untractableness about the will, 
that does not easily put itself in the situation 
of others, and that consults its own bias best by 
giving itself no trouble about them. Human 
life is so far a game of cross-purposes. If we 
wish a thing to be kept secret, it is sure to 
transpire ; if we wish it to be known, not a syl- 
lable is breathed about it. This is not meant ; 
but it happens so from mere simplicity and 
thoughtlessness. No one has ever yet seen 
through all the intricate folds and delicate in- 
volutions of our self-love, which is wrapped up 
in a set of smooth flimsy pretexts like some 
precious jewel in covers of silver paper. 

I proceed to say something of the words J'alse 
and true, as applied to moral feelings. It may 
be argued that this is a distinction without a 
difference ; for that as feelings only exist by 
hemgfelt^ wherever, and in so far as they exist, 
they must be true, and that there can be no 
falsehood or deception in the question. The 
distinction between true and false pleasure, be- 
tween real and seeming good, would be thus 
done away with ; for the reality and the appear- 
ance are here the same. And this would be 
the case if our sensations were simple and de- 
tached, and one had no influence on another. 



376 ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 

But it is in their secret and close dependence 
one on another, that the distinction here spoken 
of takes its rise. That then is true or pure plea- 
sure that has no alloy or drawback in some 
other consideration ; that is free from remorse 
and alarm ; and that will bear the soberest re- 
flection ; because there is nothing that, upon 
examination, can be found acting indirectly to 
check and throw a damp upon it. On the 
other hand, we justly call those pleasuresya/.se 
and hollow, not merely which are momentary 
and ready to elude our grasp, but which, even 
at the time, are accompanied with such a con- 
sciousness of other circumstances as must em- 
bitter and undermine them. For instance, put- 
ting morality quite out of the question ; is there 
not an undeniable and wide difference between 
the gaiety and animal spirits of one who in- 
dulges in a drunken debauch to celebrate some 
unexpected stroke of good fortune, and his w^ho 
does the same thing to drown care for the loss 
of all he is worth? The outw^ard objects, the 
immediate and more obvious sensations are, 
perhaps, very much the same in the latter case 
as in the former, — the rich viands, the spark- 
ling wines, the social merriment, the wit, the 
loud laughter, and the maddening brain, but 
the still small voice is wanting, there is a reflec- 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. S77 

tion at bottom, that however stifled and kept 
down, poisons and spoils all, even by the violent 
effort to keep it from intruding ; the mirth in 
the one case is forced, in the other is natural ; 
the one reveller is (we all know by experience) a 
gay, laughing wretch, the other a happy man. 
I profess to speak of human nature as I find it ; 
and the circumstance that any distinction I can 
make may be favourable to the theories of virtue, 
will not prevent me from setting it down, from the 
fear of being charged with cant and prejudice. 
Even in a case less palpable than the one sup- 
posed, where " some sweet oblivious antidote " 
has been applied to the mind, and it is lulled to 
temporary forgetfulness of its immediate cause 
of sorrow, does it therefore cease to gnaw the 
heart by stealth ; are no traces of it left in the 
care-worn brow or face ; is the state of mind 
the same as it was ; or is there the same buoy- 
ancy, freedom, and erectness of spirit as in 
more prosperous circumstances ? On the con- 
trary, it is torpid, vexed, and sad, enfeebled or 
harassed, and weighed down by the corroding 
pressure of care, whether it thinks of it or not. 
The pulse beats slow and languid, the eye is 
dead ; no object strikes us with the same ala- 
crity ; the avenues to joy or content are shut ; 
and life becomes a burthen and a perplexing 



378 ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 

mystery. Even in sleep, we are haunted with 
the broken images of distress or the mockery 
of bliss, and we in vain try to still the idle tu- 
mult of the heart. The constantly tampering 
with the truth, the putting off the day of reck- 
oning, the fear of looking our situation in the 
face, gives the mind a wandering and unsettled 
turn, makes our waking thoughts a troubled 
dream, or sometimes ends in madness, without 
any violent paroxysm, without any severe pang, 
without any overt act, but from that silent ope- 
ration of the mind which preys internally upon 
itself, and works the decay of its powers the 
more fatally, because we dare not give it open 
and avowed scope. Do we not, in case of any 
untoward accident or event, know, when we 
wake in the morning, that something is the 
matter, before we recollect what it is ? The 
mind no more recovers its confidence and se- 
renity after a staggering blow, than the haggard 
cheek and sleepless eye their colour and viva- 
city, because we do not see them in the glass. 
Is it to be supposed that there is not a firm and 
healthy tone of the mind as well as of the body ; 
or that v;hen this has been deranged, we do not 
feel pain, lassitude, and fretful impatience, 
though the local cause or impression may have 
been withdrawn ? Is the state of the mind or of 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 379 

the nervous system, and its disposition or indis- 
position to receive certain impressions from the 
remains of others still vibrating on it, nothing ? 
Shall we say that the laugh of a madman is 
sincere ; or that the wit we utter in our dreams 
is sterling ? We often feel uneasy at something, 
without being able to tell why, or attribute it 
to a wrong cause. Our unconscious impres- 
sions necessarily give a colour to, and re-act 
upon our conscious ones ; and it is only when 
these two sets of feeling are in accord, that our 
pleasures are true and sincere ; where there is 
a discordance and misunderstanding in this 
respect, they are said (not absurdly as is pre- 
tended) to be false and hollow. There is then 
a serenity of virtue, a peace of conscience, a 
confidence in success, and a pride of intellect, 
which subsist and are a strong source of satis- 
faction independently of outward and immedi- 
ate objects, as the general health of the body 
gives a glow and animation to the whole frame, 
notwithstanding a scratch we may have received 
in our little finger, and certainly very different 
from a state of sickness and infirmity. The 
difficulty is not so much in supposing one men- 
tal cause or phenomenon to be affected and 
imperceptibly moulded by another, as in set- 
ting limits to the everlasting ramifications of 



380 ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 

our impressions, and in defining the obscure and 
intricate ways in which they communicate toge- 
ther. Suppose a man to labour under an habi- 
tual indigestion. Does it not oppress the very 
sun in the sky, beat down all his powers of 
enjoyment, and imprison all his faculties in a 
living tomb ? Yet he perhaps long laboured 
under this disease, and felt its withering effects, 
before he was aware of the cause. It was not 
the less real on this account ; nor did it inter- 
fere the less w4th the sincerity of his other plea- 
sures, tarnish the face of nature, and throw a 
gloom over every thing. " He was hurt, and 
knew it not." Let the pressure be^ removed, 
and he breathes freely again; his spirits run 
with a livelier current, and he greets nature 
with smiles ; yet the change is in him, not in 
her. Do we not pass the same scenery that we 
have visited but a little before, and wonder that 
no object appears the same, because we have 
some secret cause of dissatisfaction ? Let any 
one feel the force of disappointed affection, and 
he may forget and scorn his error, laugh and be 
gay to all outward appearance, but the heart is 
not the less seared and blighted ever after. The 
splendid banquet does not supply the loss of 
appetite, nor the spotless ermine cure the itch- 
ing palm, nor gold nor jewels redeem a lost 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 381 

name, nor pleasure fill up the void of aifection, 
nor passion stifle conscience. Moralists and 
divines say true, when they talk of the " un- 
quenchable fire, and the worm that dies not." 
The human soul is not an invention of priests, 
whatever fables they have engrafted on it ; nor 
is there an end of all our natural sentiments 
because French philosophers have not been able 
to account for them! — Hume, I think, some- 
where contends that all satisfactions are equal *, 
because the cup can be no more than full. But 
surely, though this is the case, one cup holds 
more than another. As to mere negative satis- 
faction, the argument may be true. But as to 
positive satisfaction or enjoyment, I see no more 
how this must be equal, than how the heat of a 
furnace must in all cases be equally intense. 
Thus, for instance, there are many things 
with which we are contented, so as not to feel 
an uneasy desire after more, but yet we have a 
much higher relish of others. We may eat a 
mutton-chop without complaining, though we 
should consider a haunch of venison as a greater 
luxury if we had it. Again, in travelling abroad, 
the mind acquires a restless and vagabond habit. 
There is more of hurry and novelty, but less of 

* See also Search's " Light of Nature Pursued," in which 
the same sopliism is insisted on. 



382 ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 

sincerity and certainty in our pursuits than at 
home. We snatch hasty glances of a great 
variety of things, but want some central point 
of view. After making the grand tour, and 
seeing the finest sights in the world, we are 
glad to come back at last to our native place and 
our own fireside. Our associations with it are 
the most stedfast and habitual, we there feel 
most at home and at our ease, we have a resting 
place for the sole of our foot, the flutter of hope, 
anxiety, and disappointment is at an end, and 
whatever our satisfactions may be, we feel most 
confidence in them, and have the strongest con- 
viction of their truth and reality. There is then 
a true and a false or spurious in sentiment as 
well as in reasoning, and I hope the train of 
thought I have here gone into may serve in some 
respects as a clue to explain it. 

The hardest question remains behind. What 
is depthi and what is superjiciality ? It is easy 
to answer that the one is what is obvious, fami- 
liar, and lies on the surface, and that the other 
is recondite and hid at the bottom of a subject. 
The difficulty recurs — What is meant by lying 
on the surface, or being concealed below it, in 
moral and metaphysical questions ? Let us try 
for an analogy. Depth consists then in tracing 
any number of particular effects to a general 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 383 

principle, or in distinguishing an unknown cause 
from the individual and varying circumstances 
with which it is implicated, and under which it 
lurks unsuspected. It is in fact resolving the 
concrete into the abstract. Now this is a task 
of diffictdty, not only because the abstract natu- 
rally merges in the concrete, and we do not 
well know how to set about separating what is 
thus jumbled or cemented together in a single 
object, and presented under a common aspect ; 
but being scattered over a larger surface, and 
collected from a number of undefined sources, 
there must be a strong feeling of its weight and 
pressure, in order to dislocate it from the object 
and bind it into a principle. The impression of 
an abstract principle is faint and doubtful in 
each individual instance ; it becomes powerful 
and certain only by the repetition of the expe- 
riment, and by adding the last results to our 
iirst hazardous conjectures. We thus gain a 
distinct hold or clue to the demonstration, 
when a number of vague and imperfect reminis- 
cences are united and drawn out together, by 
tenaciousness of memory and conscious feeling, 
in one continued act. So that the depth of the 
understanding or reasoning in such cases may 
be explained to mean, that there is a pile of 
implicit distinctions analyzed from a great va- 



384 ON DEPTH AND bUPERFICIALITY. 

riety of fiicts and observations, each supporting 
the other, and that the mind, instead of being 
led away by the last or first object or detached 
view of the subject that occurs, connects all 
these into a whole from the top to the bottom, 
and by its intimate sympathy with the most ob- 
scure and random impressions that tend to the 
same result, evolves a principle of abstract truth. 
Two circumstances are combined in a particular 
object to produce a given effect : how shall I 
know which is the true cause, but by finding it 
in another instance ? But the same effect is pro- 
duced in a third object, which is without the 
concomitant circumstance of the first or second 
case. I must then look out for some other 
latent cause in the rabble of contradictory pre- 
tensions huddled together, which I had not 
noticed before, and to which I am eventually 
led by finding a necessity for it. But if my 
memory fails me, or I do not seize on the true 
character of different feelings, I shall make little 
progress, or be quite thrown out in my reckon- 
ing. Insomuch that according to the general 
diffusion of any element of thought or feeling, 
and its floating through the mixed mass of hu- 
man affairs, do we stand in need of a greater 
quantity of that refined experience I have 
spoken of, and of a quicker and firmer tact in 



di 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 385 

connecting or distinguishing its results. How- 
ever, I must make a reservation here. Both 
knowledge and sagacity are required, but sa- 
gacity abridges and anticipates the labour of 
knowledge, and sometimes jumps instinctively 
at a conclusion ; that is, the strength or fineness 
of the feeling, by association or analogy, sooner 
elicits the recollection of a previous and forgot- 
ten one in different circumstances, and the two 
together, by a sort of internal evidence and col- 
lective force, stamp any proposed solution with 
the character of truth or falsehood. Original 
strength of impression is often (in usual ques- 
tions at least) a substitute for accumulated 
weight of experience ; and intensity of feeling is 
so far synonlmous with depth of understanding. 
It is that which here gives us a contentious and 
palpable consciousness of whatever affects it in 
the smallest or remotest manner, and leavci^to 
us the hidden springs of thought and action 
through our sensibility and jealousy of whatever 
touches them. — To give an illustration or two 
of this very abstruse subject. 

Elegance is a word that means something 
different from ease, grace, beauty, dignity ; yet 
it is akin to all these ; but it seems more parti- 
cularly to imply a sparkling brilliancy of effect 
with finish and precision. We do not apply the 

VOL. II. ^ C 



386* ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 

term to great things ; we should not call an epic 
poem or a head of Jupiter elegant , but we speak 
of an elegant copy of verses, an elegant head- 
dress, an elegant fan, an elegant diamond 
brooch, or bunch of flowers. In all these cases 
(and others where the same epithet is used) 
there is something little and comparatively tri- 
fling in the objects and the interest they inspire. 
So far I deal chiefly in examples, conjectures, 
and negatives. But this is far from a definition. 
I think I know what personal beauty is, because 
I can say in one word what I mean by it, viz. 
harmony of form ; and this idea seems to me to 
answer to all the cases to which the term per- 
sonal beauty, is ever applied. Let us see if we 
cannot come to something equally definitive 
with respect to the other phrase. Sparkling 
effect, finish, and precision, are characteristic, 
as I think, of elegance, but as yet I see no 
reason why they should be so, any more than 
why blue, red, and yellow, should form the 
colours of the rainbow. I want a common idea 
as a link to connect them, or to serve as a sub- 
stratum for the others. Now suppose I say that 
elegance is beauty, or at least the pleasurable in 
little things : we then have a ground to rest 
upon at once. For elegance being beauty or 
pleasure in little or slight impressions, precision. 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 387 

finish, and polished smoothness follow from this 
definition as matters of course. In other words, 
for a thing that is little to be beautiful, or at 
any rate to please, * it must have precision of 
outline, which in larger masses and gigantic 
forms is not so indispensable. In what is small, 
the parts must be finished, or they will offend. 
Lastly, in what is momentary and evanescent, 
as in dress, fashions, &c. there must be a glossy 
and sparkling effect, for brilliancy is the only 
virtue of novelty. That is to say, by getting 
the primary conditions or essential qualities of 
elegance in all circumstances whatever, we see 
how these branch off into minor divisions in 
relation to form, details, colour, surface, &c. and 
rise from a common ground of abstraction into 
all the variety of consequences and examples. 
The Hercules is not elegant j the Venus is 
simply beautiful. The French, whose ideas of 
beauty or grandeur never amount to more than 
an elegance, have no relish for Rubens, nor will 
they luiderstand this definition. 

When Sir Isaac Newton saw the apple fall, it 
was a very simple and common observation, but 
it suggested to his mind the law that holds the 
universe together. What then was the process 

* I have said before that this is a study, not a perfect de- 
monstration. I am no merchant in metaphysics. 

2 C 2 



388 ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIAMTV. 

in this case ? In general, when we see any thing 
fall, we have the idea of a particular direction, 
of ttp and down associated with the motion by 
invariable and every day's experience. The 
earth is always (as we conceive) under our feet, 
and the sky above our heads, so that according 
to this local and habitual feeling, all heavy 
bodies must everlastingly fall in the same direc- 
tion downwards, or parallel to the upright posi- 
tion of our bodies. Sir Isaac Newton by a bare 
effort of abstraction, or by a grasp of mind com- 
prehending all the possible relations of things, 
got rid of this prejudice, turned the world as it 
were on its back, and saw the apple fall not 
downwards^ but simply towards the earth, so 
that it would fall upwards on the same princi- 
ple, if the earth were above it, or towards it at 
any rate in whatever direction it lay. This 
highly abstracted view of the case answered to 
all the phenomena of nature, and no other did ; 
and this view he arrived at by a vast power of 
comprehension, retaining and reducing the con- 
tradictory phenomena of the universe under 
one law, and counteracting and banishing from 
his mind that almost invincible and instinctive 
association of up and down as it relates to the 
position of our own bodies and the gravitation 
of all others to the earth in the same direction. 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 389 

From a circumscribed and partial view we make 
that, which is general, particular: the great 
mathematician here spoken of, from a wide and 
comprehensive one, made it general again, or 
he perceived the essential condition or cause of 
a general effect, and that which acts indispen- 
sably in all circumstances, separate from other 
accidental and arbitrarv ones. 

I lately heard an anecdote related of an 
American lady (one of two sisters) who married 
young and well, and had several children ; her 
sister, however, was married soon after herself 
to a richer husband, and had a larger (if not 
finer) family, and after passing several years of 
constant repining and wretchedness, she died at 
length of pure envy. The circumstance was 
well known, and generally talked of. Some one 
said on hearing this, that it was a thing that 
could only happen in America ; that it was a 
trait of the republican character and institu- 
tions, where alone the principle of mutual jea- 
lousy, having no high and distant objects to fix 
upon, and divert it from immediate and private 
mortifications, seized upon the happiness or out- 
ward advantages even of the nearest connexions 
as its natural food, and having them constantly 
before its eyes, gnawed itself to death upon 
them. I assented to this remark, and I confess 



390 ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 

it struck me as shewing a deep insight into hu- 
man nature. Here was a sister envying a sister, 
and that not for objects that provoke strong 
passion, but for common and conventional ad- 
vantages, till it ends in her death. They were 
also represented as good and respectable peo- 
ple. How then is this extraordinary develope- 
ment of an ordinary human frailty to be ac- 
counted for ? From the peculiar circumstances? 
These were the country and state of society. 
It was in America that it happened. The 
democratic level, the flatness of imagery, the 
absence of those towering and artificial heights 
that in old and monarchical states act as con- 
ductors to attract aud carry off the splenetic 
humours and rancorous hostilities of a whole 
people, and to make common and petty advan- 
tages sink into perfect insignificance, were full 
in the mind of the person who suggested the 
solution ; and in this dearth of every other 
mark or vent for it, it was felt intuitively, that 
the natural spirit of envy and discontent would 
fasten upon those that were next to it, and 
whose advantages, there being no great differ- 
ence in point of elevation, would gall in pro- 
portion to their proximity and repeated recur- 
rence. The remote and exalted advantages of 
birth and station in countries where the social 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. 39^ 

fabric is constructed of lofty and unequal mate- 
rials, necessarily carry the mind out of its im- 
mediate and domestic circle ; whereas, take 
away those objects of imaginary spleen and 
moody speculation, and they leave, as the in- 
evitable alternative, the envy and hatred of our 
friends and neighbours at every advantage we 
possess, as so many eye-sores and stumbling- 
blocks in their way, where these selfish princi- 
ples have not been curbed or given way altoge- 
ther to charity and benevolence. The fact, as 
stated in itself, is an anomaly : as thus explained, 
by combining it with a general state of feeling 
in a country, it seems to point out a great 
principle in society. Now this solution would 
not have been attained but for the deep impres- 
sion which the operation of certain general 
causes of moral character had recently made, 
and the quickness with which the consequences 
of its removal were felt. I might give other 
instances, but these will be sufficient to explain 
the argument, or set others upon elucidating it 
more clearly. 

Acuteness is depth, or sagacity in connecting 
individual effects with individual causes, or 
vice versd, as in stratagems of war, policy, and 
a knowledge of character and the world. Com- 
prehension is the power of combining a vast 



392 ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY, 

number of particulars in some one view, as in 
mechanics, or the game of chess, but without 
referring them to any abstract or general prin- 
ciple. A common-place differs from an abstract 
discourse in this, that it is trite and vague, in- 
stead of being new and profound. It is a com- 
mon-place at present to say that heavy bodies 
fall by attraction. It would always have been 
one to say that this falling is the effect of a law 
of nature, or the will of God. This is assigning 
a general but not adequate cause. 

The depth of passion is where it takes hold of 
circumstances too remote or indifferent for 
notice from the force of association or analogy, 
and turns the current of other passions by its 
own. Dramatic power in the depth of the 
knowledge of the human heart, is chiefly shewn 
in tracing this effect. For instance, the fond- 
ness displayed by a mistress for a lover (as she 
is about to desert him for a rival) is not mere 
hypocrisy or art to deceive him, but nature, or 
the reaction of her pity, or parting tenderness 
towards a person she is about to injure, but does 
not absolutely hate. Shakespear is the only 
dramatic author who has laid open this reaction 
or involution of the passions in a manner worth 
speaking of. The rest are common place de- 
claimers, and may be very fine poets, but not 



ON DEPTH AND SUPERFICIALITY. S9S 

deep philosophers. — There is a depth even in 
superficiality, that is, the affections cling round 
obvious and familiar objects, not recondite and 
remote ones; and the intense continuity of feel- 
ing thus obtained, forms the depth of sentiment. 
It is that that redeems poetry and romance from 
the charge of superficiality. The habitual im- 
pressions of things are, as to feeling, the most 
refined ones. The painter also in his mind's 
eye penetrates beyond the surface or husk of 
the object, and sees into a labyrinth of forms, 
an abyss of colour. My head has grown giddy 
in following tlie windings of the drawing in 
Raphael, and I have gazed on the breadth of 
Titian, where infinite imperceptible gradations 
were blended in a common mass, as into a daz- 
zling mirror. This idea is more easily trans- 
ferred to Rembrandt's chiaro-scura, where the 
greatest clearness and the nicest distinctions are 
observed in the midst of obscurity. In a word, 
I suspect depth to be that strength, and at the 
same time subtlety of impression, which will 
not suffer the slightest indication of thought or 
feeling to be lost, and gives warning of them, 
over whatever extent of surface they are dif- 
fused, or under whatever disguises of circum- 
stances they lurk. 



ESSAY XIV. 
ON RESPECTABLE PEOPLE. 



ESSAY XIV. 

ON RESPECTABLE PEOPLE. 



There is not any term that is oftener mis- 
applied, or that is a stronger instance of the 
abuse of language, than this same word respect- 
able. By a respectable man is generally meant 
a person whom there is no reason for respect- 
ing, or none tliat we choose to name : for if 
there is any good reason for the opinion we 
wish to express, we naturally assign it as the 
ground of his respectability. If the person 
whom you are desirous to characterise favour- 
ably, is distinguished for his good-nature, you 
say that he is a good-natured man ; if by his 
zeal to serve his friends, you call him a friendly 
man ; if by his wit or sense, you say that he is 
witty or sensible ; if by his honesty or learning, 
you say so at once ; but if he is none of these, 
and there is no one quality which you can bring 
forward to justify the high opinion you would 
be thought to entertain of him, you then take 
the question for granted, and jump at a conclu- 
3ion, by observing gravely, that " he is a very 



398 ON RESPECTABLE PEOPLE. 

respectable man." It is clear, indeed, that 
where we have any striking and generally ad- 
mitted reasons for respecting a man, the most 
obvious way to ensure the respect of others, 
will be to mention his estimable qualities ; 
where these are wanting, the wisest course must 
be to say nothing about them, but to insist on 
the general inference which we have our parti- 
cular reasons for drawing, only vouching for its 
authenticity. If, for instance, the only motive 
we have for thinking or speaking well of an- 
other is, that he gives us good dinners, as this 
is not a valid reason to those who do not, like 
us, partake of his hospitality, we may (without 
going into particulars) content ourselves with 
assuring them, that he is a most respectable 
man : if he is a slave to those above him, and 
an oppressor of those below him, but sometimes 
makes us the channels of his bounty or the tools 
of his caprice, it will be as well to say nothing 
of the matter, but to confine ourselves to the 
safer generality, that he is a person of the high- 
est respectability : if he is a low dirty fellow, 
who has amassed an immense fortune, which he 
does not know what to do with, the possession 
of it alone will guarantee his respectability, if 
we say nothing of the manner in which he has 
come by it, or in which he spends it. A man 



ON RESPECTABLE PEOPLE. 399 

may be a knave or a fool, or both (as it may 
happen) and yet be a most respectable man, in 
the common and authorized sense of the term, 
provided he saves appearances, and does not 
give common fame a handle for no longer keep- 
ing up the imposture. The best title to the 
character of respectability lies in the conveni- 
ence of those who echo the cheat, and in the 
conventional hypocrisy of the world. Any one 
may lay claim to it who is wdlling to give him- 
self airs of importance, and can find means to 
divert others from inquiring too strictly into his 
pretensions. It is a disposable commodity, — 
not apart of the man, that sticks to him like his 
skin, but an appurtenance, like his goods and 
chattels. It is meat, drink, and clothing to 
those who take the benefit of it by allowing 
others the credit. It is the current coin, the 
circulating medium, in which the factitious in- 
tercourse of the world is carried on, the bribe 
which interest pays to vanity. Respectability 
includes all that vague and undefinable mass of 
respect floating in the world, which arises from 
sinister motives in the person who pays It, and 
is offered to adventitious and doubtful qualities 
in the person who receives it. It is spurious 
and nominal ; hollow and venal. To suppose 
that it is to be taken literally or applied to ster- 



400 ON RESPECTABLE PEOPLE. 

ling merit, would betray the greatest ignorance 
of the customary use of speech. When we hear 
the word coupled with the name of any indivi- 
dual, it would argue a degree of romantic sim- 
plicity to imagine that it implies any one quality 
of head or heart, any one excellence of body or 
mind, any one good action or praise-worthy 
sentiment ; but as soon as it is mentioned, it 
conjures up the ideas of a handsome house with 
large acres round it, a sumptuous table, a cellar 
well stocked with excellent wines, splendid fur- 
niture, a fashionable equipage, with a long list 
of elegant contingencies. It is not what a man 
is, but what he has, that we speak of in the sig- 
nificant use of this term. He maybe the poorest 
creature in the world in himself, but if he is well 
to do, and can spare some of his superfluities, if 
he can lend us his purse or his countenance up- 
on occasion, he then "buys golden opinions" 
of us ; — it is but fit that we should speak well of 
the bridge that carries us over, and in return 
for what we can get from him, we embody our 
servile gratitude, hopes, and fears, in this word 
respectability. By it we pamper his pride, and 
feed our own necessities. It must needs be a 
very honest uncorrupted word that is the go- 
between in this disinterested kind of traffic. We 
do not think of applying this word to a great 



ON RESPECTABLE PEOPLE. 401 

poet or a great painter, to the man of genius, 
or the man of virtue, for it is seldom we can 
spunge upon them. It would be a solecism for 
any one to pretend to the character who has a 
shabby coat to his back, who goes without a 
dinner, or has not a good house over his head. 
He who has reduced himself in the world by 
devoting himself to a particular study, or ad- 
hering to a particular cause, occasions only a 
smile of pity or a shrug of contempt at the men- 
tion of his name ; while he who has raised him- 
self in it by a different course, who has become 
rieli for want of ideas, and powerful from want 
of principle, is looked up to with silent homage, 
and passes for a respectable man. ^* The learned 
pate ducks to the golden fool." We spurn at 
virtue and genius in rags ; and lick the dust 
in the presence of vice and folly in purple. 
When Otway was left to starve after having 
produced " Venice Preserv'd," there was nothing 
in the phrenzied action with which he devoured 
the food that choked him, to provoke the respect 
of the mob, who would have hooted at him the 
more for knowing that he was a poet. Spenser, 
kept waiting for the hundred pounds which 
Burleigh grudged him "for a song," might feel 
the mortification of his situation ; but the states- 
man never felt any diminution of his Sovereign's 
VOL. II. 2 D 



402 ON RESPECTABLE PEOPLE. 

regard in consequence of it. Charles the Se- 
cond's neglect of his favourite poet Butler did 
not make him look less gracious in the eyes of 
his courtiers, or of the wits and critics of the 
time. Burns's embarrassments, and the temp- 
tations to which he was exposed by his situa- 
tion, degraded him ; but left no stigma on his 
patrons, who still meet to celebrate his memory, 
and consult about his monument, in the face of 
day. To enrich the mind of a country by works 
of art or science, and leave yourself poor, 
is not the way for any one to rank as respect- 
able, at least in his life-time : — to oppress, to en- 
slave, to cheat, and plunder it, is a much better 
way. " The time gives evidence of it." But 
the instances are common. 

Respectability means a man's situation and 
success in life, not his character or conduct. 
The city merchant never loses his respectability 
till he becomes a bankrupt. After that, we hear 
no more of it or him. The Justice of the Peace, 
and the Parson of the parish, the Lord and the 
Squire, are allowed, by immemorial usage, to be 
very respectable people, though no one ever 
thinks of asking why. They are a sort of fix- 
tures in this way. To take an example from 
one of them. The Country Parson may pass 
his whole time, when he is not employed in the 



ON RESPECTABLE PEOPLE. 40S 

cure of souls, in flattering his rich neighbours, 
and leaguing with them to snub his poor ones, 
in seizing poachers, and encouraging informers ; 
he may be exorbitant in exacting his tithes, 
harsh to his servants, the dread and bye-word 
of the village where he resides, and yet all this, 
though it may be notorious, shall abate nothing 
of his respectability. It will not hinder his 
patron from giving him another living to play 
the petty tyrant in, or prevent him from riding 
over to the Squire's in his carriage and being 
well received, or from sitting on the bench of 
Justices with due decorum and with clerical 
dignity. The poor Curate, in the mean time, 
who may be a real comfort to the bodies and 
minds of his parishioners, will be passed by 
without notice. Parson Adams, drinking his 
ale in Sir Thomas Booby's kitchen, makes no 
very respectable figure ; but Sir Thomas himself 
was right worshipful, and his widow a person of 
honour ! — A few such historiographers as Field- 
ing would put an end to the farce of respectabi- 
lity, with several others like it. Peter Pounce, in 
the same author, was a consummation of this cha- 
racter, translated into the most vulgar English. 
The character of Captain Blifil, his epitaph, and 
funeral sermon, are worth tomes of casuistry 
and patched-up theories of moral sentiments. 
2 D S 



404 ON RESPECTABLE PEOPLE. 

Pope somewhere exclaims, in his fine indignant 

way, 

" Wliat can ennoble sots, or knaves, or cowards ? 
Alas ! not all the blood of all the Howards." 

But this is the heraldry of poets, not of the 
world. In fact, the only way for a poet now-a- 
days to emerge from the obscurity of poverty 
and genius, is to prostitute his pen, turn literary 
pimp to some borough-mongering lord, canvass 
for him at elections, and by this means aspire 
to the same importance, and be admitted on the 
same respectable footing with him as his valet, 
his steward, or his practising attorney. A Jew, 
a stock-jobber, a war-contractor, a successful 
monopolist, a Nabob, an India Director, or an 
African slave-dealer, are all very respectable 
people in their turn. A Member of Parliament 
is not only respectable, but honourable; — "all 
honourable men!" Yet this circumstance, 
which implies such a world of respect, really 
means nothing. To say of any one that he is 
a Member of Parliament, is to say, at the same 
time, that he is not at all distinguished as such. 
No body ever thought of telling you, that Mr. 
Fox or Mr. Pitt were Members of Parliament: 
Such is the constant difference between names 
and things ! 

The most mischievous and offensive use of 



ON RESPECTABLE PEOPLE. 405 

this word has been in politics. By respectable 
people (in the fashionable cant of the day) are 
meant those who have not a particle of regard 
for any one but themselves, who have feathered 
their own nests, and only want to lie snug and 
warm in them. They have been set up and ap- 
pealed to as the only friends of their country 
and the Constitution, while in truth they were 
friends to nothing but their own interest. With 
them all is well, if they are well off. They are 
raised by their lucky stars above the reach of 
the distresses of the community, and are cut off 
by their situation and sentiments, from any 
sympathy with their kind. They would see their 
country ruined before they would part with the 
least of their superfluities. Pampered in luxury 
and their own selfish comforts, they are proof 
against the calls of patriotism, and the cries of 
humanity. They would not get a scratch with 
a pin to save the universe. They are more af- 
fected by the overturning of a plate of turtle- 
soup than by the starving of a whole county. 
The most desperate characters, picked from the 
most necessitous and depraved classes, are not 
worse judges of politics than your true, staunch, 
thorough-paced 'Mives and fortunes men," who 
have what is called a stake in the country, and 
see every thing through the medium of their 



406 ON RESPECTABLE PEOPLE. 

cowardly and unprincipled hopes and fears.— 
London is, perhaps, the only place in which the 
standard of respectability at all varies from the 
standard of money. There things go as much 
by appearance as by weight ; and he may be said 
to be a respectable man who cuts a certain figure 
in company by being dressed in the fashion, and 
venting a number of common-place things with 
tolerable grace and fluency. If a person there 
bring-s a certain share of information and good 
manners into mixed society, it is not asked, 
when he leaves it, whether he is rich or not. 
Lords and fiddlers, authors and common coun- 
cilmen, editors of newspapers and parliamentary 
speakers meet together, and the difference is 
not so much marked as one would suppose. To 
be an Edinburgh Reviewer is, I suspect, the 
highest rank in modern literary society. 



ESSAY XIII. 

ON THE JEALOUSY AND THE SPLEEN 
OF PARTY. 



ESSAY XIII. 



ON THE JEALOUSY AND THE SPLEEN 
OF PARTY. 

" It is michin-malico, and means mischief." — Hamlet. 

I was sorry to find the other day, on coming 
to Vevey, and looking into some English books 
at a library there, that Mr. Moore had taken an 
opportunity, in his "Rhymes on the Road," of 
abusing Madame Warens, Rousseau, and men 
of genius in general. It 's an ill bird, as the 
proverb says. This appears to me, I confess, to 
be pick-thank work, as needless as it is ill-timed, 
and, considering from whom it comes, particu- 
larly unpleasant. In conclusion, he thanks God 
with the Levite, that " he is not one of those," 
and would rather be any thing, a worm, the 
meanest thing that crawls, than numbered 
among those who give light and law to the world 
by an excess of fancy and intellect *. Perhaps 

* " Out on the craft — I 'd rather be 

One of those hinds that round me tread, 
With just enough of sense to see 

The noon-day sun that 's o'er my head, 



410 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

Posterity may take him at his word, and no 

more trace be found of his " Rhymes " upon the 

onward tide of time than of 

" the snow-falls in the river, 
A moment white, then melts for ever !" 

It might be some increasing consciousness of the 
frail tenure by which he holds his rank among 
the great heirs of Fame, that urged our Bard to 
pawn his reversion of immortality for an indul- 
gent smile of patrician approbation, as he raised 
his puny arm against " the mighty dead," to 
lower by a flourish of his pen the aristocracy of 
letters nearer to the level of the aristocracy of 
lank — two ideas that keep up a perpetual see- 
saw in Mr. Moore's mind like buckets in a well, 
and to which he is always ready to lend a help- 
ing hand, according as he is likely to be hoisted 
up, or in danger of being let down with either 
of them. The mode in which our author pro- 
poses to correct the extravagance of public opi- 
nion, and qualify the interest taken in such per- 
sons as Rousseau and Madame de Warens, is 
singular enough, and savours of the late un- 

Than thus with high-built genius curs'd, 
That hath no heart for its foundation, 

Be all at once that 's brightest — worst — 
Sublimest — meanest in creation. 

Rhymes ok the Road. 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 411 

lucky bias of his mind: — it is by referring us 
to what the well-bred people in the neighbour- 
hood thought of Rousseau and his pretensions a 
hundred years ago or thereabouts. *' So shall 
their anticipation prevent our discovery / " 

" And doubtless 'mong the grave and good 
And gentle of their neighbourhood, 
Ifknovon at all, they were but known 
As strange, low people, low and bad, 
Madame herself to footmen prone, 
And her young ^aw^er, all but mad." 

This is one way of reversing the judgment of 
posterity, and setting aside the ex-post-facto evi- 
dence of taste and genius. So, after "all that's 
come and gone yet," — after the anxious doubts 
and misgivings of his mind as to his own des- 
tiny — after all the pains he took to form himself 
in solitude and obscurity — after the slow dawn 
of his faculties, and their final explosion, that 
like an eruption of another Vesuvius, dazzling 
all men with its light, and leaving the burning 
lava behind it, shook public opinion, and over- 
turned a kingdom — after having been " the 
gaze and shew of the time" — after having been 
read by all classes, criticised, condemned, ad- 
mired in every corner of Europe — after be- 
queathing a name that at the end of half a cen- 
tury is never repeated but with emotion as ano- 



412 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

ther name for genius and misfortune — after 
having given us an interest in his feeHngs as in 
our own, and drawn the veil of lofty imagina- 
tion or of pensive regret over all that relates to 
his own being, so that we go a pilgrimage to 
the places where he lived, and recall the names 
he loved with tender affection (worshipping at 
the shrines where his fires were first kindled, 
and where the purple light of love still lingers 
— " Elysian beauty, melancholy grace !") — after 
all this, and more, instead of taking the opi- 
nion which one half of the world have formed 
of Rousseau with eager emulation, and the 
other have been forced to admit in spite of 
themselves, we are to be sent back by Mr. 
Moore's eaves-dropping Muse to what the people 
in the neighbourhood thought of him (if ever 
they thought of him at all) before he had shewn 
any one proof of what he was, as the fairer test 
of truth and candour, and as coming nearer to 
the standard of greatness, that is, of something 
asked to dine out^ existing in the author's own 

mind. 

'* This, this is the unkindest cut of all." 

Mr. Moore takes the inference which he chuses 
to attribute to the neighbouring gentry con- 
cerning *' the pauper lad," namely, that " he was 
mad " because he was poor, and flings it to the 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 413 

passengers out of a landau and four as the true 
version of his character by the fashionable and 
local authorities of the time. He need not have 
gone out of his way to Charmettes merely to 
drag the reputations of Jean Jacques and his 
mistress after him, chained to the car of aris- 
tocracy, as " people low and bad," on the 
strength of his enervated sympathy with the 
genteel conjectures of the day as to what and 
who they were — we have better and more au- 
thentic evidence. What would he say if this 
method of neutralising the voice of the public 
were applied to himself, or to his friend Mr. 
Chantry ; if we were to deny that the one ever 
rode in an open carriage t^te-a-t^te with a lord, 
because his father stood behind a counter, or 
were to ask the sculptor's customers when he 
drove a milk-cart what we are to think of his 
bust of Sir Walter? It will never do. It is the 
peculiar hardship of genius not to be recog- 
nized with the first breath it draws — often not 
to be admitted even during its life-time — to 
make its way slow and late, through good report 
and evil report, " through clouds of detraction, 
of envy and lies " — to have to contend with the 
injustice of fortune, with the prejudices of the 
world J 

*' Rash judgments and the sneers of selfish men '" — 



414 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

to be shamed by personal defects, to pine in 
obscurity, to be the butt of pride, the jest of 
fools, the bye-word of ignorance and malice — 
to carry on a ceaseless warfare between the con- 
sciousness of inward worth and the slights and 
neglect of others, and to hope only for its re- 
ward in the grave and in the undying voice of 
fame : — and when, as in the present instance, 
that end has been marvellously attained and a 
final sentence has been passed, would any one 
but Mr. Moore wish to shrink from it, to revive 
the injustice of fortune and the world, and 
to abide by the idle conjectures of a fashionable 
coterie empannelled on the spot, who would 
come to the same shallow conclusion whether 
the individual in question were an idiot or a 
God ? There is a degree of gratuitous imperti- 
nence and frivolous servility in all this not 
easily to be accounted for or forgiven. 

There is something more particularly offen- 
sive in the cant about "people low and bad" 
applied to the intimacy between Rousseau and 
Madame Warens, inasmuch as the volume 
containing this nice strain of morality is dedi- 
cated to Lord Byron, who was at that very time 
living on the very same sentimental terms with 
an Italian lady of rank, and whose Memoirs 
Mr. Moore has since thought himself called 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 415 

upon to suppress, out of regard to his Lord- 
ship's character and to that of his friends, most 
of whom were not ^' low people." Is it quality, 
not charity, that with Mr. Moore covers all 
sorts of slips ? 

" But 'tis the fall degrades her to a whore ; 

Let Greatness own her, and she 's mean no more !" 

What also makes the dead-set at the heroine of 
the "Confessions" seem the harder measure, is, 
that it is preceded by an effusion to Mary Mag- 
dalen in the devotional style of Madame Guy- 
on, half amatory, half pious, but so tender and 
rapturous that it dissolves Canova's marble in 
tears, and heaves a sigh from Guido's canvas. 
The melting pathos that trickles down one page 
is frozen up into the most rigid morality, and 
hangs like an icicle upon the next. Here Tho- 
mas Little smiles and weeps in ecstacy ; there 
Thomas Brown (not "the younger," but the 
elder surely) frowns disapprobation, and medi- 
tates dislike. Why, it may be asked, does Mr. 
Moore's insect-Muse always hover round this 
alluring subject, "now in glimmer and now in 
gloom" — now basking in the warmth, now 
writhing with the smart — now licking his lips at 
it, now making wry faces — but always fidget- 
ting and fluttering about the same gaudy, 
luscious topic, either in flimsy raptures or trum- 
pery horrors? I hate, for my own part, this alter- 



416 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

nation of meretricious rhapsodies and methodist- 
ical cant, though the one generally ends in the 
other. One would imagine that the author of 
*' Rhymes on the Road" had lived too much in 
the world, and understood the tone of good so- 
ciety too well to link the phrases " people low 
and bad" together as synonymous. But the 
crossing the Alps has, I believe, given some of 
our fashionables a shivering-fit of morality, as 
the sight of Mont Blanc convinced our author 
of the Being of a God * — they are seized with 
an amiable horror and remorse for the vices of 
others (of course so much worse than their 
own,) so that several of our bluestockings have 
got the blue-devils, and Mr. Moore, as the Squire 
of Dames, chimes in with the cue, that is given 
him. The panic, however, is not universal. He 
must have heard of the romping, the languishing, 
the masquerading, the intriguing, and the Pla- 
tonic attachments of English ladies of the high- 
est quality and Italian Opera-singers. He must 

* The poet himself, standing at the bottom of it, however 
diminutive in appearance, was a much greater pi-oof of his 
own argument than a huge, shapeless lump of ice. But the 
immensity, the solitude, the barrenness, the immoveableness 
of the masses, so different from the whirl, the tinsel, the buzz 
and the ephemeral nature of the objects which occupy and 
dissipate his ordinary attention, gave Mr. Moore a turn for 
reflection, and brought before him the abstract idea of infi- 
nity and of the cause of all things. 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 417 

know what Italian manners are — what they 
were a hundred years ago, at Florence or at 
Turin, * better than I can tell him. Not a 
word does he hint on the subject. No : the 
elevation and splendour of the examples dazzle 
him ; the extent of the evil overpowers him ; 
and he chooses to make Madame Warens the 
scape-goat of his little budget of querulous ca- 
suistry, as if her errors and irregularities were 
to be set down to the account of the genius of 
Rousseau and of modern philosophy, instead of 
being the result of the example of the privileged 
class to which she belonged, and of the licen- 
tiousness of the age and country in which she 
lived. She appears to have been a handsome, 
well-bred, fascinating, condescending demirep 
of that day, like any of the author's fashionable 
acquaintances in the present, but the eloquence 
of her youthful protege has embalmed her me- 
mory, and thrown the illusion of fancied perfec- 
tions and of hallowed regrets over her frailties ; 
and it is this that Mr. Moore cannot excuse, 
and that draws down upon her his pointed hosti- 
lity of attack, and rouses all the venom of his 
moral indignation. Why does he not, in like 
manner, pick a quarrel with that celebrated 

* Madame Warens resided for some time at Turin, and 
was pensioned by the Court. 
VOL. II. '2 E 



418 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

monument in the Pere la Chaise^ brought there 

" From Paraclete's white walls and silver springs ;" 

or why does he not leave a lampoon, instead of 
an elegy, on Laura's tomb ? The reason is, he 
dare not. The cant of morality is not here 
strong enough to stem the opposing current of 
the cant of sentiment, to which he by turns 
commits the success of his votive rhymes. 

Not content with stripping off the false colours 
from the frail fair (one of whose crimes it is 
not to have been young) the poet makes a 
" swan-like end," and falls foul of men of ge- 
nius, fancy, and sentiment in general, as im- 
postors and mountebanks, who feel the least 
themselves of what they describe and make 
others feel. I beg leave to enter my flat and 
peremptory protest against this view of the mat- 
ter, as an impossibility. I am not absolutely 
blind to the weak sides of authors, poets, and 
philosophers (for " 'tis my vice to spy into 
abuses") but that they are not generally in 
earnest in what they write, that they are not the 
dupes of their own imaginations and feelings, 
before they turn the heads of the world at large, 
is what I must utterly deny. So far from the 
likelihood of any such antipathy between their 
sentiments and their professions, from their being 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 419 

recreants to truth and nature, quite callous and 
insensible to what they make such a rout about, 
it is pretty certain that whatever they make 
others feel in any marked degree, they must 
themselves feel first; and further, they must have 
this feeling all their lives. It is not a fashion 
got up and put on for the occasion ; it is the 
very condition and ground-work of their being. 
What the reader is and feels at the instant, that 
the author is and feels at all other times. It is 
stamped upon him at his birth ; it only quits 
him when he dies. His existence is intellectual, 
ideal: it is hard to say he takes no interest in 
what he is. His passion is beauty ; his pursuit 
is truth. On whomsoever else these may sit 
light, to whomever else they may appear indif- 
ferent, whoever else may play at fast-and-loose 
with them, may laugh at or despise them, may 
take them up or lay them down as it suits their 
convenience or pleasure, it is not so with him. 
He cannot shake them off, or play the hypocrite 
or renegado, if he would. ''Can the Ethiopian 
change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" 
They are become a habit, a second nature to 
him. He is totus in illis: he has no other alter- 
native or resource, and cannot do without them. 
The man of fashion may resolve to study as a con- 
descension, the man of business as a relaxation,- 

2e 2 



420 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

the idler to employ his time. But the poet is 
" married to immortal verse," the philosopher 
to lasting truth. Whatever the reader thinks 
fine in books (and Mr. Moore acknowledges 
that fine and rare things are to be found there) 
assuredly existed before in the living volume 
of the author's brain : that which is a passing 
and casual impression in the one case, a floating 
image, an empty sound, is in the other an heir- 
loom of the mind, the very form into which it 
is warped and moulded, a deep and inward har- 
mony that flows on for ever, as the springs of 
memory and imagination unlock their secret 
stores. *' Thoughts that glow, and words that 
burn," are his daily sustenance. He leads a 
spiritual life, and walks with God. The per- 
sonal is, as much as may be, lost in the univer- 
sal. He is Nature's high-priest, and his mind 
is a temple where she treasures up her fairest 
and loftiest forms. These he broods over, till 
he becomes enamoured of them, inspired by 
them, and communicates some portion of his 
ethereal fires to others. For these he has given 
up every thing, wealth, pleasure, ease, health j 
and yet we are to be told he takes no interest 
in them, does not enter into the meaning of the 
words he uses, or feel the force of the ideas he 
imprints upon the brain of others. Let us give 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 421 

the Devil his due. An author, I grant, may be 
deficient in dress or address, may neglect his 
person and his fortune — 

" But his soul is fair, 
Bright as the children of yon azure sheen :" 

he may be full of inconsistencies elsewhere, but 
he is himself in his books : he may be ignorant 
of the world we live in, but that he is not at 
home and enchanted with that fairy-world 
which hangs upon his pen, that he does not 
reign and revel in the creations of his own 
fancy, or tread with awe and delight the stately 
domes and empyrean palaces of eternal truth, 
the portals of which he opens to us, is what I 
cannot take Mr. Moore's word for. He does 
not '^give us reason with his rhyme." An au- 
thor's appearance or his actions may not square 
with his theories or his descriptions, but his 
mind is seen in his writings, as his face is in the 
glass. All the faults of the literary character, in 
short, arise out of the predominance of the profes- 
sional mania of such persons, and their absorp- 
tion in those ideal studies and pursuits, their 
affected regard to which the poet tells us is a 
mere mockery, and a bare-faced insult to people 
of plain, strait-forward, practical sense and un- 
adorned pretensions, like himself. Once more, 
I cannot believe it. I think that Milton did 



422 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

not dictate "Paradise Lost" hy rote (as a 
mouthing player repeats his part) that Shake- 
spear worked himself up v.ith a certain warmth 
to express the passion in Othello, that Sterne 
had some affection for My Uncle Toby, Rous- 
seau a hankering after his dear Charmettes, that 
Sir Isaac Newton really forgot his dinner in his 
fondness for fluxions, and that Mr. Locke prosed 
in sober sadness about the malleability of gold. 
Farther, I have no doubt that Mr. Moore him- 
self is not an exception to this theory — that he 
has infinite satisfaction in those tinkling rhymes 
and those glittering conceits with which the 
world are so taken, and that he had very much 
the same sense of mawkish sentiment and flimsy 
reasoning in inditing the stanzas in question 
that many of his admirers must have experienced 
in reading them ! — In turning to the " Castle of 
Indolence'* for the lines quoted a little way 
back, I chanced to light upon another passsage 
which I cannot help transcribing : 

" I care not. Fortune, what you me deny : 
You cannot rob me of free Nature's grace ; 
You cannot shut the windows of the sky, 
Through which Aurora shews her brightening face ; 
You cannot bar my constant feet to trace 
The woods and lawns by living stream at eve : 
Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace. 
And I their toys to the great children leave : 
Of fancy, reason, virtue nought can me bereave." 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 423 

Were the sentiments here so beautifully ex- 
pressed mere affectation in Thomson ; or are we 
to make it a rule that as a writer imparts to us a 
sensation of disinterested delight, he himself has 
none of tlie feeling he excites in us? This is one 
way of shewing our gratitude, and being even 
with him. But perhaps Thomson's works may 
not come under the intention of Mr. Moore's 
strictures, as they were never (like Rousseau's) 
excluded from the libraries of English Noblemen ! 

<' Books, dreams are each a world, and books, wc know, 
Are a substantial world, both pure and good ; 
Round which, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood, 
Our pastime and our happiness may grow.'* 

Let me then conjure the gentle reader, who has 
ever felt an attachment to books, not hastily to 
divorce them from their authors. Whatever 
love or reverence may be due to the one, is 
equally owing to the other. The volume we 
prize may be little, old, shabbily bound, an im- 
perfect copy, does not step down from the shelf 
to give us a graceful welcome, nor can it extend 
a hand to serve us in extremity, and so far may 
be like the author: but whatever there is of 
truth or good or of proud consolation or of 
cheering hope in the one, all this existed in a 
greater degree in the imagination and the heart 
and brain of the other. To cherish the work 



424 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

and damn the author is as if the traveller who 
slakes his thirst at the running stream, should 
revile the spring-head from which it gushes. I 
do not speak of the degree of passion felt by 
Rousseau towards Madame Warens, nor of his 
treatment of her, nor her's of him : but that he 
thought of her for years with the tenderest 
yearnings of affection and regret, and felt to- 
wards her all that he has made his readers feel, 
this I cannot for a moment doubt. * So far, 
then, he is no impostor or juggler. Still less 
could he have given a new and personal character 
to the literature of Europe, and changed the 
tone of sentiment and the face of society, if he 
had not felt the strongest interest in persons and 
things, or had been the heartless pretender he 
is sometimes held out to us. 

The tone of politics and of public opinion has 

* What the nature of his attachment was is probably best 
explained by his cry, " Ah ! voila de la pervenche !" with 
which all Europe has rung ; or by the beginning of the last 
of the " Reveries of a Solitary Walker," " Aujourd'hui jour 
de Piques fleuries, il y a precisement cinquante ans de ma 
premiere connaissance avec Madame de Warens." But it 
is very possible our lively Anacreon does not understand 
these long-winded retrospects ; and agrees with his friend 
Lord Byron, who professed never to feel any thing seriously 
for more than a day ! 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 4>Q5 

undergone a considerable and curious change, 
even in the few short years I can remember. 
In my time, that is, in the early part of it, the 
love of liberty (at least by all those whom I 
came near) was regarded as the dictate of com- 
mon sense and common honesty. It was not a 
question of depth or learning, but an instinctive 
feeling, prompted by a certain generous warmth 
of blood in every one worthy the name of Bri- 
ton. A man would as soon avow himself to be 
a pimp or a pickpocket as a tool or a pander to 
corruption. This was the natural and at the 
same time the national feeling. Patriotism was 
not at variance with philanthropy. To take an 
interest in humanity, it was only thought neces- 
sary to have the form of a man : to espouse its 
cause, nothing was wanting but to be able to 
articulate the name. It was not inquired what 
coat a man wore, where he was born or bred, 
what was his party or his profession, to qualify 
him to vote on this broad and vital question — 
to take his share in advancing it, was the un- 
disputed birth-right of every free-man. No one 
was too high or too low, no one was too wise or 
too simple to join in the common cause. It 
would have been construed into lukewarmness 
and cowardice not to have done so. The voice 
as of one crying in the wilderness had gone 



426 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

forth — " Peace on earth, and good-will towards 
men ! " The dawn of a new era was at hand. 
Might was no longer to lord it over right, 
opinion to march hand in hand with falsehood. 
The heart swelled at the mention of a puhlic as 
of a private wrong — the brain teemed with pro- 
jects for the benefit of mankind. History, phi- 
losophy, all well-intentioned and well-informed 
men agreed in the same conclusion. If a good 
was to be done, let it — if a truth was to be told, 
let it ! There could be no harm in that : it was 
only necessary to distinguish right from wrong, 
truth from lies, to know to which we should give 
the preference. A rose was then doubly sweet, 
the notes of a thrush went to the heart, there 
was '^ a witchery in the soft blue sky" because 
we could feel and enjoy such things by the pri- 
vilege of our common nature, " not by the suf- 
ferance of supernal power," and because the 
common feelings of our nature were not tram- 
pled upon and sacrificed in scorn to shew and 
external magnificence. Humanity was no lon- 
ger to be crushed like a worm, as it had hitherto 
been — power was to be struck at, wherever it 
reared its serpent crest. It had already roamed 
too long unchecked. Kings and priests had 
played the game of violence and fraud for thou- 
sands of years into each other's hands, on pre- 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 427 

lences that were now seen through, and were 
no farther feasable. The despot's crown ap- 
peared tarnished and blood-stained : the cowl 
of superstition fell off, that had been so often 
made a cloak for tyranny. The doctrine of the 
Jus Divimim " squeaked and gibbered in our 
streets," ashamed to shew its head : Holy Oil 
had lost its efficacy, and was laughed at as an ex- 
ploded mummery. Mr. Locke had long ago (in 
his Treatise of Government, written at the ex- 
press desire of King William) settled the ques- 
tion as it affected our own Revolution (and natu- 
rally every other) in favour of liberal principles 
as a part of the law of the land and as identi- 
fied with the existing succession. Blackstone 
and De Lolme (the loudest panegyrists of the 
English Constitution) founded their praise on 
the greater alloy of Liberty implied in it. 
Tyranny was on the wane, at least in theory : 
public opinion might be said to rest on an in- 
clined plane, tending more and more from the 
heights of arbitrary power and individual pre- 
tension to the level of public good ; and no 
man of common sense or reading would have 
had the face to object as a bar to the march of 
truth and freedom — 

" The right divine of Kings to govern w^ong ! " 



428 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

No one had then dared to answer the claim of a 
whole nation to the choice of a free government 
with the impudent taunt, " Your King is at 
hand !" Mr. Burke had in vain sung his requiem 
over the " age of chivalry :" Mr. Pitt mouthed 
out his speeches on the existence of social order 
to no purpose : Mr. Malthus had not cut up Li- 
berty by the roots by passing ** the grinding 
law of necessity *' over it, and entailing vice 
and misery on all future generations as their 
happiest lot : Mr. Ricardo had not pared down 
the schemes of visionary projectors and idle 
talkers into the form of Rent : Mr. Southey 
had not surmounted his cap of Liberty with the 
laurel wreath ; nor Mr. Wordsworth proclaimed 
Carnage as " God's Daughter j'' nor Mr. Cole- 
ridge, to patch up a rotten cause, written the 
Friend. Every thing had not then been done 
(or had, '* like a devilish engine, back recoiled 
upon itself) to stop the progress of truth, to 
stifle the voice of humanity, to break in pieces 
and defeat opinion by sophistry, calumny, inti- 
midation, by tampering with the interests of the 
proud and selfish, the prejudices of the ignorant, 
the fears of the timid, the scruples of the good, 
and by resorting to every subterfuge which art 
could devise to perpetuate the abuses of power. 
Freedom then stood erect, crowned with orient 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 429 

light, " with looks commercing with the skies :" 
— since then, she has fallen by the sword and by 
slander, whose edge is sharper than the sword ; 
by her own headlong zeal or the watchful malice 
of her foes, and through that one unrelenting 
purpose in the hearts of Sovereigns to baffle, de- 
grade, and destroy the People, whom they had 
hitherto considered as their property, and whom 
they now saw (oh ! unheard-of presumption) set- 
ting up a claim to be free. This claim has* been 
once more set aside, annulled, overthrown ^ 
trampled upon with every mark of insult and 
ignominy, in word or deed ; and the consequence 
has been that all those, who had stood forward 
to advocate it have been hurled into the air 
with it, scattered, stunned, and have never yet 
recovered from their confusion and dismay. 
The shock was great, as it was unexpected ; the 
surprise extreme : Liberty became a sort of 
bye-word ; and such was the violence of party- 
spirit and the desire to retaliate former indigni- 
ties, that all those who had ever been attached 
to the fallen cause seemed to have suffered con- 
tamination and to labour under a stigma. The 
Party (both of Whigs and Reformers) were left 
completely in the lurch ; and (what may appear 
extraordinary at first sight) instead of wishing 
to strengthen their cause, took every method to 



430 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

thin their ranks and make the terms of admission 
to them more difficult. In proportion as they 
were scouted by the rest of the world, they 
grew more captious, irritable, and jealous of 
each other's pretensions. The general obloquy 
was so great that every one was willing to escape 
from it in the crowd, or to curry favour with the 
victors by denouncing the excesses or picking 
holes in the conduct of his neighbours. While 
the victims of popular prejudice and ministerial 
persecution were eagerly sought for, no one was 
ready to own that he was one of the set. Unpo- 
pularity '' doth part the flux of company." Each 
claimed an exception for himself or party, was 
glad to have any loop-hole to hide himself from 
this " open and apparent shame," and to shift 
the blame from his own shoulders, and would by 
no means be mixed up with Jacobins and Level- 
lers — the terms with which their triumphant 
opponents qualified indiscriminately all those 
who differed with them in any degree. Where 
the cause was so disreputable, the company 
should be select. As the flood-gates of Billings- 
gate abuse and courtly malice were let loose, 
each coterie drew itself up in a narrower circle : 
the louder and more sweeping was the storm of 
Tory spite without, the finer were the distinctions, 
the more fastidious the precautions used with- 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 431 

in. The Whigs, completely cowed by the 
Tories, threw all the odium on the Reformers ; 
who in return with equal magnanimity vented 
their stock of spleen and vituperative rage on 
the Whigs. The common cause was forgot in 
each man's anxiety for his own safety and cha- 
racter. If any one, bolder than the rest, wanted 
to ward off the blows that fell in showers, or to 
retaliate on the assailants, he was held back or 
turned out as one who longed to bring an old 
house about their ears. One object was to give 
as little ofl'ence as possible to " the powers that 
be" — to lie by, to trim, to shuffle, to wait for 
events, to be severe on our own errors, just to 
the merits of a prosperous adversary, and not to 
throw away the scabbard or make recbnciliation 
hopeless. Just as all was hushed up, and the 
*' chop-fallen" Whigs were about to be sent for 
to Court, a great cloutering blow from an incor- 
rigible Jacobin might spoil all, and put off the 
least chance of anything being done " for the 
good of the country," till another reign or the 
next century. But the great thing was to be 
genteel, and keep out the rabble. They that 
touch pitch are defiled. *' No connection with 
the mob," was labelled on the back of every 
friend of the People. Every pitiful retainer of 
Opposition took care to disclaim all affinity with 



432 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

such fellows as Hunt, Carlisle, or Cobbett.* As 
it was the continual drift of the Ministerial 
writers to confound the different grades of their 
antagonists, so the chief dread of the Minority 
was to be confounded with the populace, the 
Canaille^ &c. They would be thought neither 
with the Government or o/'the People. They are 
an awkward mark to hit at. It is true they have 
no superfluous popularity to throw away upon 
others, and they may be so far right in being shy 
in the choice of their associates. They are criti- 
cal in examining volunteers into the service. It 
is necessary to ask leave of a number of circum- 
stances equally frivolous and vexatious, before 
you can enlist in their skeleton-regiment. Thus 
you must have a good coat to your back ; for 
they have no uniform to give you. You must 
bring a character in your pocket ; for they have 
no respectability to lose. If you have any scars 
to shew, you had best hide them, or procure a 
certificate for your pacific behaviour from the 
opposite side, with whom they wish to stand 
well, and not to be always wounding the feelings 
of distinguished individuals. You must have 

* Mr. Pitt and Mr. Windham were not so nice. They 
were intimate enough with such a fellow as Cobbett, while 
he chose to stand by them. 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 433 

vouchers that you were neither born, bred, nor 
reside within the Bills of Mortality, or Mr. 
Theodore Hook will cry Cockney" ! You must 
have studied atone or other of the English Uni- 
versities, or Mr. Croker will prove every third 
word to be a Bull. If you are a patriot and a 
martyr to your principles, this is a painful con- 
sideration, and must act as a draw-back to your 
pretensions, which would have a more glossy and 
creditable appearance, if they had never been 
tried. If you are a lord or a dangler after lords, 
it is well : the glittering star hides the plebeian 
stains, the obedient smile and habitual cringe 
of approbation are always welcome. A courtier 
abuses courts with a better grace : for one who 
has held a place to rail at place-men and pen- 
sioners shews candour and a disregard to self. 
There is nothing low, vulgar, or disreputable in 
it I — I doubt whether this martinet discipline 
and spKuceness of demeanour is favourable to 
the popular side. The Tories are not so 
squeamish in their choice of tools. If a writer 
comes up to a certain standard of dulness, im- 
pudence, and want of principle, nothing more 
is expected. There is. ^at M-— -, lean J-^-^, "^ 
black C— J — r, flimsy H^——, lame G ,and one- 
eyed M-U— ': do they not form an impenetra- 
ble phalanx round the throne, and worthy of it ! 
VOL. II. 2 F 



434 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

Who ever thought of inquiring into the talents, 
qualifications, birth, or breeding of a Govern- 
ment-scribbler ? If the workman is fitted to the 
work, they care not one straw what you or I 
say about him. This shews a confidence in 
themselves, and is the way to assure others. 
The Whigs, who do not feel their ground so 
well, make up for tlieir want of strength by a 
proportionable want of spirit. Their cause is 
ticklish, and they support it by the least hazard- 
ous means. Any violent or desperate mea- 
sures on their part might recoil upon themselves. 

" When they censure the age, 
They are cautious and sage, 

Lest the courtiers offended should be." 

Whilst they are pelted with the most sciurilous 
epithets and unsparing abuse, they insist on 
language the most classical and polished in 
return ; and if any unfortunate devil lets an 
expression or allusion escape that stings, or jars 
the tone of good company, he is given up with- 
out remorse to the tender mercies of his foes 
for this infraction of good manners and breach 
of treaty. The envy or cowardice of these half- 
faced friends of liberty regularly sacrifices its 
warmest defenders to the hatred of its enemies 
— mock-patriotism and effeminate self-love rati- 
fying the lists of proscription made out by ser- 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 435 

vility and intolerance. This is base, and con- 
trary to all the rules of political warfare. What ! 
if the Tories give a man a bad name, must the 
Whigs hang him ? If a writer annoys the 
first, must lie alarm the last ? Or when they 
find he has irritated his and their opponents 
beyond all forgiveness and endurance, instead 
of concluding from the abuse heaped upon him 
that he has "done the State some service," 
must they set him aside as an improper person 
merely for the odium which he has incurred by 
his efforts in the common cause, which, had 
they been of no effect, would have left him still 
fit for their purposes of negative success and 
harmless opposition? Their ambition seems to 
be to exist by sufferance ; to be safe in a sort 
of conventional insignificance ; and in their 
dread of exciting the notice or hostility of the 
lords of the earth, they are like the man in the 
storm who silenced the appeal of his companion 
to the Gods — *' Call not so loud, or they will 
hear us !" One v/ould think that in all ordinary 
cases honesty to feel for a losing cause, capacity 
to understand it, and courage to defend it, 
would be sufficient introduction and recom- 
mendation to fight the battles of a party, and 
serve at least in the ranks. But this of Whig 
Opposition is, it seems, a peculiar case. There 
2 f2 



436 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

is more in it than meets the eye. The corps 
may one day be summoned to pass muster be- 
fore Majesty, and in that case it will be expected 
that they should be of crack materials, without 
a stain and without a flaw. Nothing can be 
too elegant, too immaculate and refined for 
their imaginary return to office. They are in a 
pitiable dilemma — having to reconcile the hope- 
less reversion of court-favour with the most 
distant and delicate attempts at popularity. 
They are strangely puzzled in the choice and 
management of their associates. Some of them 
must undergo a thorough ventilation and per- 
fuming, like poor Morgan, before Captain Whif- 
fle would suffer him to come into his presence. 
Neither can any thing base and plebeian be 
supposed to " come betwixt the wind and their 
nobility." As their designs are doubtful, their 
friends must not be suspected : as their prin- 
ciples are popular, their pretensions must be 
proportionably aristocratic. The reputation of 
Whiggism, like that of women, is a delicate 
thing, and will bear neither to be blown upon 
or handled. It has an ill odour, which requires 
the aid of fashionable essences and court-pow- 
ders to carry it off. It labours under the frown 
of the Sovereign : and swoons at the shout and 
pressure of the People. Even in its present 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 437 

forlorn and abject state, it relapses into convul- 
sions if any low fellow offers to lend it a helping 
hand : those who would have their overtures of 
service accepted must be bedizened and spark- 
ling all over with titles, wealth, place, connec- 
tions, fashion (in lieu of zeal and talent), as a 
set-off to the imputation of low designs and 
radical origin ; for there is nothing that the 
patrons of the People dread so much as being 
identified with them, and of all things the patri- 
otic party abhor (even in their dreams) a misal- 
liance with the rabble ! 

Why must I mention the instances, in order 
to make the foregoing statement intelligible or 
credible? I woidd not, but that I and others 
have suffered by the weakness here pointed 
out; and I think the cause must ultimately suf- 
fer by it, unless some antidote be applied by 
reason or ridicule. Let one example serve for 
all. At the time that Lord Byron thought 
proper to join with Mr. Leigh Hunt and Mr. 
Shelley in the publication called the Liberal, 
Blackwood's Magazine overflowed, as might be 
expected, with tenfold gall and bitterness; the 
John Bull was outrageous; and Mr. Jerdan 
black in the face at this unheard-of and dis- 
graceful union. But who would have supposed 
that Mr. Thomas Moore and Mr. Hobhouse, 



438 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

those staunch friends and partisans of the peo- 
ple, should also be thrown into almost hysteri- 
cal agonies of well-bred horror at the coalition 
betw^een their noble and ignoble acquaintance, 
between the Patrician and "the Newspaper- 
Man ?" Mr. Moore darted backwards and for- 
wards from Cold-Bath-Fields' Prison to the Ex- 
aminer-Officer, from Mr. Longman's to Mr. 
Murray's shop, in a state of ridiculous trepida- 
tion, to see what was to be done to prevent this 
degradation of the aristocracy of letters, this 
indecent encroachment of plebeian pretensions, 
this- undue extension of patronage and compro- 
mise of privilege. The Tories were shocked 
that Lord Byron should grace the popular side 
by his direct countenance and assistance — the 
Whigs were shocked that he should share his 
confidence and counsels with any one who did 
not unite the double recommendations of birth 
and genius — but themselves ! Mr. Moore had 
lived so long among the Great that he fancied 
himself one of them, and regarded the indignity 
as done to himself. Mr. Hobhouse had lately 
been black-balled by the Clubs, and must feel 
particularly sore and tenacious on the score of 
public opinion. Mr. Shelley's father, however, 
was an older Baronet than Mr. Hobhouse*s — 
Mr. Leigh Hunt was "to the full as genteel a 



THE SPLEEN OF rARTY. 439 

man" as Mr. Moore in birth, appearance, and 
education — the pursuits of all four were the 
same, the Muse, the public favour, and the 
public good ! Mr. Moore was himself invited 
to assist in the undertaking, but he professed 
an utter aversion to, and warned Lord Byron 
against having any concern with, joint-puhlica- 
tions, as of a very neutralizing and levelling 
description. He might speak from experience. 
He had tried his hand in that Ulysses' bow of 
critics and politicians, the Edinburgh Review, 
though his secret had never transpired. Mr. 
Hobhouse too had written Illustrations of 
Childe Harold (a sort of partnership concern) 
— ^yet to quash the publication of the Liberal, 
he seriously proposed that his Noble Friend 
should write once a week in his own name in 
the Examiner — the Liberal scheme, he was 
afraid, might succeed : the Newspaper one, he 
knew, could not. I have been whispered that 
the Member for Westminster (for whom I once 
gave an ineffectual vote) has also conceived 
some distaste for me — I do not know why, 
except that I was at one time named as the 
writer of the famous Trecenti Juravimus Letter 
to Mr. Canning, which appeared in the Exami- 
ner and was afterwards suppressed. He might 
feel the disgrace of such a supposition : I con- 



440 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

fess I did not feel the honour. The cabal, the 
bustle, the significant hints, the confidential 
rumours were at the height when, after Mr. 
Shelley's death, I was invited to take part in 
this obnoxious publication (obnoxious alike to 
friend and foe) — and when the Essay on the 
Spirit of Monarchy appeared, (which must in- 
deed have operated like a bomb-shell thrown 
into the coteries that Mr. Moore frequented, as 
well as those that he had left,) this gentleman 
WTote off to Lord Byron, to say that "there was 
a taint in the Liberal, and that he should lose 
no time in getting out of it." And this from 
Mr. Moore to Lord Byron — the last of whom 
had just involved the publication, against which 
he was cautioned as having a taint in it, in a 
prosecution for libel by his Vision oj' Judgment , 
and the first of whom had scarcely written any 
thing all his life that had not a taint in it. It 
is true, the Holland-House party might be 
somewhat staggered by a jeu-d'esprit that set 
their Blackstone and De Lolme theories at de- 
fiance, and that they could as little write as 
answer. But it was not that. Mr. Moore 
also complained that " I had spoken against 
Lalla Rookh," though he had just before 
sent me his '* Fudge Family." Still it was 
not that. But at the time he sent me that 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 441 

very delightful and spirited publication, my 
little bark was seen "hulling on the flood" 
in a kind of dubious twilight, and it was not 
known whether I might not prove a vessel of 
gallant trim. Mr. Blackwood had not then 
directed his Grub-street battery against me : 
but as soon as this was the case, Mr. Moore 
was willing to *' whistle me down the wind, and 
let me prey at fortune;" not that I "proved 
haggard," but the contrary. It is sheer cowardice 
and want of heart. The sole object of the set 
is not to stem the tide of prejudice and false- 
hood, but to get out of the way themselves. The 
instant another is assailed (however unjustly), 
instead of standing manfully by him, they cut 
the connection as fast as possible, and sanction 
by their silence and reserve the accusations they 
ought to repel. Sauve qui pent — every one 
has enough to do to look after his own reputation 
or safety without rescuing a friend or propping 
up a falling cause. It is only by keeping in the 
back-ground on such occasions (like Gil Bias 
when his friend Ambrose Lamela was led by in 
triumph to the auto-da-fe) that they can escape 
the like honours and a summary punishment. 
A shower of mud, a flight of nick-names 
(glancing a little out of their original direction) 
might obscure the last glimpse of Royal favour. 



<142 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

or Stop the last gasp of popularity. Nor could 
they answer it to their Noble friends and more 
elegant pursuits to be seen in such company, or 
to have their names coupled with similar out- 
rages. Their sleek, glossy, aspiring pretensions 
should not be exposed to vulgar contamination, 
or to be trodden under foot of a swinish mul- 
titude. Their birth-day suits (unused) should 
not be dragged through the kennel, nor their 
"tricksy" laurel- wreaths stuck in the pillory. 
This would make them equally unfit to be taken 
into the palaces of princes or the carriages of 
peers. If excluded from both, what would be- 
come of them ? The only way, therefore, to 
avoid being implicated in the abuse poured 
upon others is to pretend that it is just — the 
way not to be made the object of the hue and cry 
raised against a friend is to aid it by underhand 
whispers. It is pleasant neither to participate 
in disgrace nor to have honours divided. The 
more Lord Byron confined his intimacy and 
friendship to a few persons of middling rank, 
but of extraordinary merit, the more it must 
redound to his and their credit — the lines of 
Pope, 

" To view with scornful, yet with jealous eyes, 
And hate for arts which caused himself to rise,"- — 

might still find a copy in the breast of more than 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 443 

one scribbler of politics and fashion. \^ Mr. 
Moore might not think without a pang of the 
author of Rimini sitting at his ease with the 
author of Childe Harold ; Mr. Hobhouse might 
be averse to see my dogged prose bound up in 
the same volume with his Lordship's splendid 
verse, and assuredly it would not facilitate his 
admission to the Clubs, that his friend Lord 
Byron had taken the Editor of the Examiner by 
the hand, and that their common friend Mr. 
Moore had taken no active steps to prevent it ! 
Those who have the least character to spare, 
can the least afford to part with their good word 
to others: a losing cause is always most divided 
against itself If the Whigs are fastidious, the 
Reformers are sour. If the first are frightened 
at the least breath of scandal, the last are dis- 
gusted with the smallest approach to popularity. 
The one desert you, if all men do not speak 
well of you: the other never forgive your having 
shaken off the incognito which they assume so 
successfully, or your having escaped from the 
Grub into the Butterfly state. The one require 
that you should enjoy the public favour in its 
newest gloss : with the other set, the smallest 
elegance of pretension or accomplishment is 
fatal. The Whigs never stomached the account 
of the " Characters of Shakespear's Plays " in 



444 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

the Quarterly : the Reformers never forgave 
me for writing them at all, or for being sus- 
pected of an inclination to the belles-lettres. 
" The Gods," they feared, " had made me poeti- 
cal ;" and poetry with them is " not a true 
thing." To. please the one, you must be a 
dandy : not to incur the censure of the other, 
you must turn cynic. The one are on the alert 
to know what the world think or say of you: the 
others make it a condition that you shall fly in 
the face of all the world, to think and say exactly 
as they do. The first thing the Westminster 
Review did was to attack the Edinburgh. The 
fault of the one is too great a deference for es- 
tablished and prevailing opinions : that of the 
other is a natural antipathy to every thing with 
which any one else sympathises. They do not 
trim, but they are rivetted to their own sullen 
and violent prejudices. They think to attract 
by repulsion, to force others to yield to their 
opinion by never giving up an inch of ground, 
and to cram the truth down the throats of their 
starveling readers, as you cram turkeys with 
gravel and saw-dust. They would gain prose- 
lytes by proscribing all those who do not take 
their Shiboleth, and advance a cause by shut- 
ting out all that can adorn or strengthen it. 
They would exercise a monstrous ostracism on 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 445 

every ornament of style or blandishment of sen- 
timent ; and unless they can allure by barren- 
ness and deformity, and convince you against 
the grain, think they have done nothing. They 
abjure Sir Walter's novels and Mr. Moore's 
poetry as light and frivolous : who but they ! 
Nothing satisfies or gives them pleasure that 
does not give others pain : they scorn to win you 
by flattery and fair words ; they set up their 
grim, bare idols, and expect you to fall down 
and worship them ; and truth is with them a 
Sphinx, that in embracing pierces you to the 
heart. All this they think is the effect of phi- 
losophy ; but it is temper, and a bad, sour, cold, 
malignant temper into the bargain. If the 
Whigs are too effeminate and susceptible 
of extraneous impressions, these underlings are 
too hard and tenacious of their own *. They 
are certainly the least amiable people in the 
world. Nor are they likely to reform others by 

* One of them tried the other day to persuade people to 
give up the Classics and learn Chinese, because he has a 
place in the India House. To those who are connected with 
the tea-trade, this may be of immediate practical interest, 
but not therefore to all the world. These prosaical visiona- 
ries are a species by themselves. It is a matter of fact, that 
the natives of the South Sea Islands speak a language of 
their own, and if we were to go there, it might be of more 
use to us than Greek and Latin — but not till then .' 



446 ON THE JEALOUSY AND 

their self-willed dogmatism and ungracious risan- 
ner. If they had this object at heart, they 
would correct both (for true humanity and wis- 
dom are the same), but they would rather lose 
the cause of human kind than not shock and 
offend while they would be thought only anxious 
to convince, as Mr. Place lost Mr. Hobhouse 
his first election by a string of radical resolu- 
tions, which so far gained their end. — One is 
hard-bested in times like these, and between 
such opposite factions, when almost every one 
seems to pull his own way, and to make his 
principles a stalking-horse to some private end; 
when you offend some without conciliating 
others ; when you incur most blame, where you 
expected most favour ; when a universal outcry 
is raised against you on one side, which is an- 
swered by as dead a silence on the other; when 
none but those who have the worst designs ap- 
pear to know their own meaning or to be held 
together by any mutual tie, and when the only 
assurance you can obtain that your intentions 
have been upright, or in any degree carried into 
effect, is that you are the object of their unre- 
mitting obloquy and ill-will. If you look for 
any other testimony to it, you will look in vain. 
The Tories know their enemies : the People do 
not know their friends. The frown and the 



THE SPLEEN OF PARTY. 447 

lightning glance of power is upon you, and 
points out the path of honour and of duty : but 
you can hope to receive no note of encourage- 
ment or approbation from the painted booths of 
Whig Aristocracy, or the sordid styes of Re- 
form ! 



THE END. 



LONDON : 

PRINTED BY J. NICHOLS AND SON, PARLIAMENT STREET. 



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The plain speaker 



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